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The White Walkers

By K. Joffré From Issue No. 7

A row of women walk arm over arm as if to mimic a moving border with their bodies. I press against the very edge of a vestibule while walking out of a Broadway show in order to avoid them.

A man with tight pants walks slowly down the subway stairs as a group of people mills behind him, growing in numbers, impatiently waiting to get to their homes after rush hour. He is too busy checking his phone to notice.

A small girl hits an older black woman on the subway train speeding from 49th to 42nd street. It’s an accident of course. Her mother doesn’t notice. The older black woman does.

I hold a door open for a woman who bolts past me and I notice, for the very first time, that they almost never say thank you. 

A group of men are seated at a table. They are shouting to each other. One of them drops a cheeseburger on the ground. A server comes out to clean the mess. They joke with the server, who jokes back. They never apologize.

We are in a theater. My husband grips my forearm and pulls, guiding me to some other place. I look behind me. An older, frail woman moves past. I turn to my husband and say, “Why did you move me? She didn’t even say excuse me.” 

When I say “excuse me” to a group of men who are standing near their girlfriends, they do not move. I push through their chittering of disappointment, as if my body is a nuisance.

My husband holds the door open for a woman who moves through it without acknowledging him. He says, “You’re welcome” in a mocking tone. I tell him that we should stop opening doors for them.

I have preordered my morning coffee at the corner store. Unfortunately, there they are, men and women, stuffed inside, oblivious to the coffee placed on the counter. I think of how I can communicate that I don’t need to wait, but I grow anxious inspecting them. They resolutely stand where they need to stand.  They stare into their phones or into space, immovable. I put a finger on one’s shoulder but she tenses up and doesn’t move. I say “Excuse me,” but she’s wearing headphones. She can hear me but chooses not to. I place my hand on her shoulder and apply the lightest bit of force. This bothers her. I push. I reach. I swim through a pool of red jackets, black beanies, blouses and buttoned shirts. There is a tumult, a cacophony of disapproval, and I think I can make amends by pointing at my cup on the counter, with my name on it, ready for me. I take my coffee, but the crowd has declared war. They are upset. They did not appreciate that. They do not show a hint of understanding. 

After the election they are sad, and I am sad with them, but I also notice that they are momentarily nicer. I am thankful for the peace.

A row of three women are walking abreast. They want to cross the street. I am in their path. I think they will see I’m walking with determination at the edge of the curb. I think they will slow their gait, maybe even stop. They do not. They move as if they will phase through me. Something like rage overtakes me. I extend my forearm, aiming at their stomachs. No, you cannot move through me. No. They run into my arm with the force of a punch. Their faces express shock.

I stop holding doors to see what happens. behind me I hear the thwack of glass doors smacking shoulders. Some complain, but I do not listen. They have always expected someone to open the door. With my absent gesture, I have shifted their world.

When three or four of them move down the street in a row blocking the entire sidewalk, I check the nearest one with my shoulder. 

A group of men stand in a circle with their girlfriends. I push one of the men and say “Move!” in a burst of anger. They perform panic, but they have no audience. 

My husband grips my arm to move me but I pull away with force. “I don’t want to be moved!” I yell. I know who is behind me. An older woman with a cane. She will remain silent, because she does not have the experience to deal with a person like me. She will slither her body between my frame and the nearby seat, slinking her skin through the thin space so she can go to the bathroom. I stand firm like an uncaring mountain.

A man walks down the subway stairs slowly, checking his phone. I lift my leg and aim my springy foot squarely at his back. 

About K. Joffré More From Issue No. 7