Last Night at the Metro….

by Tom Nguyen

Last night at the metro, I saw a young couple getting physical while arguing, with the girl pushing the guy around. I wanted to say something but they seemed to settle down so I walked down to the platform, hoping they were resolving things.

Then the couple came down the platform, still arguing, and the young man was so distraught, he sat down at the edge of the platform, dangling his legs over the tracks, and sobbing uncontrollably.

I approached them and asked if everything was ok. It was a really tense situation, and a really belligerent man by the name of Javier Rodriguez, who’s a known bully in the building I live in, started making things worse by shouting and making accusations at the girl. I turned around and told him to mind his own business and to shut his mouth, because instead of deescalating the situation, he does what he always does, like in our building, always being aggressive and confrontational.

I sat down next to the crying young man, with my hand on his shoulder, and told him whatever was bothering him, we could talk about it, but the train was going to be here in a few minutes, and nothing is worth getting hurt over. It took a couple of minutes to console him, and eventually he let me take him over to sit on the bench.

Then 2 LAPD officers approached, asking us in an accusatory and aggressive manner why we were all standing off limits on the platform’s edge. I told the young man to stay quiet and that everything’s cool. They immediately threatened to fine us if we jumped the turnstiles without TAP cards and accused all of us of possessing weed and alcohol, saying they could smell it on us.

I told the officers that the young man was just having a bad day, and that everything was fine…we’re away from the platform and just sitting here talking calmly. One cop pointed to us and said, “Then you…all of you leave this station right now…just get out of here” implying they’d do something if we didn’t leave. So I took the man’s skateboard, and with my arm around his shoulders, and with his partner, we left the metro station. As I left, I admit I did a crude thing, which was give Javier the finger for being an asshole the whole time, and he immediately reported me to the officers, trying to provoke them to do something to us.

We just kept walking until a couple of blocks away because I was afraid of the officers coming up and harassing the young couple further, and I spent the next half hour getting the young man to open up. He’s in heavy depression because his mother was deported to Mexico, and his young sisters went to live with her there, and his father is absent, so he’s the sole breadwinner at 18yo by himself in LA, trying to finish trade school, while working and sending money to his mother.

He told me he feels like he does so much and tries so hard for everyone else, his partner doesn’t understand his pressures, and he’s had to bottle all his feelings inside. I told him about my depression at his age and my suicidal thoughts, and that talking to someone is a great first step. And that self-care and making sure he takes care of himself and his needs first is important, before taking care of others. I gave him my number if he ever needs someone to talk to about his problems.

I told both him and his partner that no one should ever get physical in an argument, and I apologized for not speaking up sooner when I saw his partner hitting him. She started crying too because she thought it was unfair that I was only judging things on one side, but I had to still let her know, doesn’t matter who’s doing the hitting or the bullying, it’s not right, and I truly hoped they resolve things in a healthy way.

My takeaways from such a heavy, intense situation are:

1. Families are being torn apart and young people in our community are suffering in these repressive times, with nowhere to turn to for help or support. Doesn’t take much to just listen and lend a sympathetic ear, but it can mean a lot to someone going through a rough time.

2. The LAPD are not our friends. So much for “community policing”…instead of coming with genuine concern and wanting to help 2 young people just having a bad night, they came ready to criminalize us. I’m a grown man, and they automatically grouped me with what they saw as a gang of unruly people of color not following the rules, instead of seeing this as an emotional and mental health issue.

3. It is highly irresponsible no matter what our differences, to be trying to provoke the LAPD on each other. This Javier character says he’s a “community activist” living on the same street where 14yo Jessie Romero, and at the same metro station where another man, were both gunned down by LAPD, but he will turn the cops on people just because he’s mad he gets my finger instead of any respect. I will give the finger to anyone pretending to be community activists but actually horrible hypocrites who abuse others, esp. these old machista, racista dinosaurs.

4. We should not tolerate domestic abuse of any kind, but when it’s a man being abused or bullied by a woman, as men, it threatens our idea of masculinity, so we don’t acknowledge it happens or we ridicule that man. This young man clearly needed a nonjudgmental male figure to confide in. This Javier character called me a sissy today, because while he was being arrogant at the metro from the safety of his bench, I gave another man my shoulder to cry on, and told him, as a man, it’s ok to be vulnerable and to talk about his feelings, and that takes strength and courage and is not something to be ashamed of.

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