The Thrill of Being Publicly Shamed
I lean my head on the sticky train seat as I make my way back to Florence. I spent the day tanning and relaxing in Cinque Terre, but my sunburn and damp clothes have me yearning to get back to the comfort of my hostel. The train is quiet and I have room to stretch out. I put the tips of my new Adidas on the edge of the seat across from me and close my eyes.
“You Anglo-Saxon piece of SHIT!”
I snap my eyes open immediately to see who is arguing. In front of me stands a red and plump Italian man. He waves his cane angrily and dangerously close to my face as he yells, “GO HOME! GO BACK TO AMERICA YOU PIECE OF SHIT!” Every word he utters is coupled with flying spit and sweat falling in slow motion to the floor from his beading forehead.
At this point, I am still shocked and confused, staring at the man with pure horror.
“You do not put your shoes on the seat you piece of shit! GO HOME! It is not right!”
I now at least understand why he is yelling, but I am still too stunned to say a word.
He continues to mutter and shout things, as he makes his way to a seat behind me. I glance around nervously to see the reactions of the rest of the passengers. Most look at me sympathetically and give me a what the hell just happened sort of smile. Others even laugh, craning their necks to get a glance of the guy.
Their reactions comfort me to some degree and I’m finally able to breathe and consider what just happened. My first thought is How did he know I was American? After a summer of travelling and three months of people demanding “Are you voting for Trump?” (NO) I was growing sensitive towards the subject.
As the train rolls up to my stop, I notice the large man huff to his feet and begin a slow descent down the stairs. I head towards another exit and decide I’m not going to let this go. As someone who is notoriously shy and the last to start any sort of conflict with a stranger, my hands are shaking with excitement.
I locate my prey and stalk silently behind him, before passing him and stopping in front of him. He comes to a halt and looks at my face with surprise and disgust. I silently thank my parents for forcing me through language classes and in perfect French, and with a satisfying level of sass, say, “I am not from America, I am from Paris. You have no right to yell at anyone the way you just did and no right to treat people that way. You could have just asked me to remove my feet from the seat.”
The stunned and ashamed look that clearly colours his face is quickly replaced as he attempts to compose himself and switch to French. He stutters before starting to say, “It does not matter-” but I don’t stay to hear the rest.
I saunter out of the train station as people stare, feeling like the swankiest Parisian to ever live.
Time for wine. Definitely, time for wine.
Cover by Alex Iby