I hadn’t seen Jose in over a week. I dropped my bag at the lone open table and headed to the bar.
“Coffee for here?”
I beamed. There isn’t a single barista at the coffee shop I don’t like, but there are a select few who I completely adore. They know me by name, never make me recite my order, and—if the line is out the door—pass me a to-go cup over the counter and mouth, It’s on the house.
Jose is one of those special few.
“So Mark told me about your little run-in on Saturday,” I started.
Jose rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Girllllllll. It’s been a long time since I dealt with something like that.”
I would HOPE so.
For fear this post will run over three thousand words, allow me to paraphrase the following story.
This story spun me into a dimension of pissed off I haven’t felt in months.
This weekend, Jose and Mark—two individuals I’ve never witnessed being anything but kind and respectful—decided to grab lunch together after their shift. While walking down the street minding their own business, a small woman behind them yelled, “FUCKING FAGGOTS!”
Yep. That actually happened.
In Washington, DC.
On 14th Street.
And it’s twenty-seven-fucking-teen.
I love almost every word in the English language beginning with the letter F, but I hate the one that woman used. Gives all the other F words a bad rap.
After that small-minded woman spit out that particularly ugly phrase, Jose and Mark did an about-face and confronted her. The conversation escalated into a screaming match. My friends quickly discovered there was no reasoning with this woman, decided she wasn’t worth their mental sanity, and continued on their way.
She followed them. Scratch that—not ONLY did she follow them, she continued to scream blood-boiling-level shit.
Mark spun around and took a swing at her.
Jose grabbed Mark’s arm before it could connect with the woman’s face, talked him off a cliff, then walked up to a group of cops on the corner and explained the whole thing.
“I can’t believe people like that still exist,” I said.
“Yeaaaa,” Jose finished, “But I’m disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed that, for a moment, we lowered ourselves to her filth.”
Don’t allow small minded people to bring out the worst in you—thereby proving those people right.
“She wanted us to fight her,” Jose said, “When Mark took a swing at her, and I held him back, she wanted that. When I held Mark back and was all like, ‘Hey girl, let’s go,’ she screamed, ‘He ain’t a girl! Don’t call him a girl!’
“I saw this video once,” he continued, “About this drag queen in New York. And these men approached her and started screaming things, and she just stayed silent. After the whole thing passed, she said, ‘Unless bitches are paying your bills, you don’t pay them no mind.’ I really try to carry that with me.”
That woman wasn’t just a bitch. She was a————
—Actually, I probably shouldn’t type that. But in case you’re wondering what I’m thinking, it rhymes with bunt.
Assholes exist. But you deserve peace more than they deserve to be put in their place.
Jose turned around, grabbed a mug from the shelf, and poured me my coffee. “Good for you guys for confronting her,” I said.
He did not agree with me.
“I mean, in the moment, there was satisfaction,” he started. “But that was days ago. And I mean—I still have bad energy from it!
“I called my mom about it. She was like, ‘I really feel sorry for people like that. Clearly there is something else going on that makes them mean and nasty.’”
We went back and forth—me trying to shape an argument and Jose squashing each comment with something more wise and human. No matter how I tried to frame it, he refused to accept that confronting her was the right path.
I know what you’re thinking—so what was the alternative? To not address the situation?
Yes. That is PRECISELY the alternative. I know this makes you want to pull your hair out, but let me (and by me, I mean Jose) explain.
That woman was rude, prejudiced, cowardly, and a thousand other far less-politically correct adjectives I am very, very tempted to type.
Somewhere, way up in that twisted brain of hers, she carries a stigma of what it means to be a gay man. Who knows what this entails. But she probably thought Jose and Mark were uncivil, unworthy, offensive, vulgar—WHO KNOWS.
She did not think Jose and Mark carried civility and grace. Therefore, the best way to prove her wrong was to simply turn and walk away.
By lowering themselves to her level, Jose and Mark transformed themselves into everything that woman WANTED them to be.
I cannot tell you how badly I wanted this story to end with Mark punching that woman in the face. And this is precisely why people like Jose are better people than me.
That woman wanted Jose and Mark to yell, take swings, and insult her chapped lips (yep, they did that). In her mind, these actions confirmed the predisposed strings of bullshit running through her head. Jose never intended to open his mouth and prove that awful woman right. He wanted to use his respect and kindness to prove her wrong.
Actually, I take back what I said before. The perfect end to this story would be for that awful woman to walk through those doors and hear this very conversation.