This morning, as I walked the few feet from the door of the coffee shop to the bus stop, I heard a woman’s voice yelling some vile and vicious things. In that neighborhood, waiting for that bus, someone yelling obscenities into a phone is a regular occurrence so I thought nothing of it. Most days, I just turn up the volume on my iPod and pray that the music will drown out the voice. This time the bus arrived right at that time and I looked up and sideways to see the bus was full. I opted to wait for the next one, but as I turned I saw the voice’s owner and realized she wasn’t on the phone.
She looked angry, but also sad; her face marked with what seemed, to me, the obvious signs of heavy substance abuse. Her youth disguised by the mask of a difficult life. She was stepping onto the bus, but her face was turned to someone behind her, the target of her obscenities, a young girl, no more than 14 or 15. The young lady, I assumed her daughter, attempted to speak, but was quieted by the power of the hate coming out of the elder woman’s mouth. She hung her head down embarrassed but also with purpose. Perhaps a tactic that had worked for her in the past; as if to say, “If I don’t look at you, you’ll stop.”
They boarded, the bus went on its way and tears filled my eyes. I felt as if I should have done something. It happened in a matter of seconds, no more than a minute. I don’t know what I could have done, had I time to act. But now, hours later my heart still breaks for that young lady; for her present shame, for her scarred future, and for the many other young ladies growing up learning to hang their head in shame as words strip them of their self-worth.