SATURDAY NIGHT, ABOUT 8:30, Jackson Blue Line platform: I enter and take a seat on a bench.
On the opposite side of the bench behind me sit a middle-aged black man and woman in well-worn clothes. Standing before them is a fortyish brotha with braided hair pulled back into a ponytail. He looks like he's seen better days too. He’s saying something, in heavily slurred speech, to the man and woman. After a few moments, I realize he is praying:
“And God, I just pray that you continue to give us mo' blessin's and mo' blessin's, so that we can spread 'em 'round to others, just like you did by givin' us yo’ son Jesus. In Jesus' name, amen."
He goes on to exhort his tiny congregation: "I tell yall, I don't need nothin'! He take care of all my needs. Do I look like I'm homeless? I just don't wanna live at home. But I just, I just wanna spread God's blessin's. And the reason why I spread 'em on to you is, you gon' spread 'em on to someone else. 'Cause God has blessed me."
"Amen," I say, under my breath.
"What Jesus did? He didn't come wit' the clean people. He came wit' the nasty people. Us. He made sure the world got taken care of. We know he was God in a man's body. But you know what he did? He was good to er-rybody. I wanna be like Jesus. Good Jesus. Good God."
The other two listen respectfully to the impromptu sermon.
"Mary was pregnant," the preacher continues. "Joseph don't know if he did it. And God gave him a dream and said, 'That's my son.' If yo wife came up pregnant with a baby and you didn't do it, what would you do?"
He continues in this vein for a little while, until the westbound Congress train comes roaring up. They all get on board and the train is soon gone.
The cockles of my heart thus warmed, I’m in good spirits as I wait for the O'hare-bound train. It arrives a few minutes later. Once in, I pick a seat near the head of the car — almost straight across from a large black woman in a scuzzy, dark blue bubble coat. She's sprawled across two seats, as if she owns the place.
No sooner have I sat down than she starts up hollering, as if continuing a conversation with someone at the other end of the car.
"I'm Amer — I’m a United State! I'm a American citizen!" she announces, to everyone and no one.
"I got married once. I got an American baby. Sheeit. You got to marry them! When you marry them, you got mucho money!" Her speech is not only loud but slurred, and her voice sounds like she’s smoked a pack, downed a fifth, then chewed up the bottle and swallowed that too.
From the loudspeaker, the Friendly Male Announcer Voice breaks in: "CHANGE TO THE BLUE LINE TRAINS AT WASHINGTON.”
"Cause they ain't no United State!" the woman yells. Then her tone turns smug. "I know the game and I know the rules. I got monaaaaaaaaay!"
She pauses a few moments, then continues: "My sister got 'em cause I'm homeless. My older sister got my baby. She nine years old. She a Mexican."
"THIS IS WASHINGTON."
"Mucho money. Yeah! Dinero. I took it. I ain't even marry the bitch, and I still got that money. Pesos!"
Perhaps in case we haven’t gotten it, she repeats: "Money!”
A thirtyish guy with glasses, sitting a few rows down from me, smirks in our direction.
“I don't spend no pesos on bitches,” the woman declares. “I'm not no mothafuckin' — I say money, bitch! Money, money, money!"
At this moment I can’t help but think of a couple of images from “In Living Color”: The “Mo’ Money” guys, and the stumbling stew bum who went to the toilet in a jar.
I know this woman's got issues. I know she's hurting inside. Problem is I’m hurting inside, too — from holding back the laughter. I feel like I'm about to laugh up my small intestine. I know I'm wrong, but I can't help it.
Here she goes again. "You marry them, and they not legally — you gotta marry them,” she informs us. “And you get money! Because you's a United States … I'm a United State! Baby, you got to marry that Mexican man!"
At Clark and Lake a bunch of folks, all white, board the train. There are some college-age kids, as well as a couple shepherding a cherubic, flaxen-haired little boy and girl of four or five. They come our way, only to be greeted by Ms. Mucho Money.
"Hey hey girl, what's up party girl!" the woman shouts at the little girl.
As the passengers situate themselves and the train rattles along its way, she yells out what sounds like: "Let's all fuck each other! Look all these bitches. (Cough, cough) Party, party, partaaaaay! Happy New Year. Happpy Meerrrrrrrry Christmas! Y’all get the fuck off my El.”
The embarrassed white people try to ignore her, while muffled titters emanate from somewhere in the back of the car.
To one of the twentysomething girls who’d just boarded — or perhaps in mockery to the guys on the train who were ogling them — she comments: “Whoo-pee doo! Jest looka that ass. Hey baby girl!"
By now I’m crying—from laughing. I’m a horrible human being.
The yuppie couple decide they're going to move on to the next car. "Go ahead and go," Mucho Money yells. "Go. Go!"
A fiftysomething white guy with glasses and mustache, a Cubs-fan looking kinda guy, sits down next to me. He could reach across the aisle and slightly back, and touch Ms. Mucho. The kid or kids with him (I’m not quite sure, as he is partly obstructing my view) sit a couple seats in front of her.
She keeps running her mouth. "They lookin' at ass. He lookin' at ass." A few of the college girls giggle amongst themselves.
"Ha ha ha ha," she laugh-coughs. "Yall lookin' at ass and cain't get the ass. Ha ha ha ha! Woo woo woo woooooooo! Yall lookin' at all these kids' ass. Ooh, it's a kid over here, I'm sorry. I'm sorry baby girl. I'm sorry."
Oh yeah, that’s right. There are children nearby. This is not funny. I try to stop laughing and to look appropriately concerned.
"DOORS OPEN ON THE LEFT AT GRAND.”
"I'm sorry," the woman says again, to the little blonde girl, reaching over as if to pat her on the head.
"Stay away from her," warns the mustachioed guy sitting next to me, apparently her dad.
"Whaa — I —"
"Stay away from her," he repeats, like he means it.
She glares at him. "Hey,” she retorts, even more loudly than before. “I got kids too. Someone like you — you stay away. Now put that to the bank! You stay away. Now you said the wrong mothafuckin' thing."
A twentysomething, bearded guy sitting kitty-corner from me pipes up: "Hey, hey, can you not talk like that around the kids?"
"I'm sorry baby."
Without missing a beat, she turns back to Dad: "You got old men rapin' kids! Old men rapin' kids! And women! Now take that to the bank! I got kids! Ass-hole! Suck my dick. My kids is grown, bitch! Now git yo white ass and straighten it up!"
Now it's not just deranged and obscene; it's become overtly hostile and racial. I begin to feel chagrined. As the only other awake black person in sight (the brotha behind me is knocked out, or pretending to be), I feel like it's somehow my job to speak up, to say or do something. To make a show of racial goodwill, or whatever. But I stay silent, lapsing back into observer mode. I say a silent prayer for her, though.
Mucho rants on: "All yall white people killin' people! You done hung yo’self an' killin' kids and killin' grown people. Bitch, I'm a homeless bitch! Now take that to the bank, bitch! . . ."
"CHICAGO IS NEXT."
" . . . And I'm a homeless person. All the shit happen on the news — you done did it! Cause yall rich! You white! You fucked up old man. You the one killin' mothafuckas!"
The noise drowns her out momentarily. People stare out windows.
" . . . "All these women getting' killed! Hangin' themselves. Turn to the news, ass-hole! Don't fuck wit' me — cause I ride."
More giggles from somewhere in the car.
"Yall rich. Got money. Yall hangin' yo own people. Look at Jerry Springer. Look at Jerry Springer. Don't tell me what the fuck — tell me what to do on my mothafuckin' train . . ."
"DIVISION IS NEXT."
" . . . Ugly mothafucka!"
The roar of the train at top speed nearly drowns her out, and the dad next to me is attempting to ignore her. But she continues to rail: "You done raped all these kids. Kilt all these kids. Kilt all these Mooslims. You got nerve to talk shit to me on my ghetto — it's the ghetto — da ghettooooooooo! . . .
"THIS IS DIVISION."
. . . "You rape yo kids,
you rape yo mama, you rape yo daddy—don't come and talk no shit on me on
my mothafuckin' train bitch! And you live in the suburbs! You betta suck my dick! All yall rapists! Come on my mothafuckin' train. This the ghetto. You rape. You rob. You take yo kids and fuck yo own kids . . ."
"DAMEN IS NEXT. DOORS OPEN TO THE RIGHT AT DAMEN.”
"That's what the kids pick up. ... Don't come on the ghetto and talk shit. Ooh baby ... I'm a get paid ... Why ya want fuck yo kids? Why yo wanna do this, mom? ... Cause I ain't had no dick ... ahhurg."
In all this time — since the bearded young man spoke — no one else has said a peep to her. As I exit at Damen, I’m feeling bad for not having said or done something. But what?
While the train's stopped, I see a conductor's head sticking out a window on the far end. I sprint down to her and tell her there's a foul-mouthed disorderly woman in the second-from-last car, #3122.
"Okay, I'll report it," she sighs, as if she's heard this a hundred times.
* * *
After midnight I return to the Damen platform to head back south. I light up a Camel and listen to three dudes talk about the metal show they just saw at the Double Door. The southbound is taking its time. But within a few minutes, along comes a northbound O’Hare train and pulls up on the opposite side. I look through the windows. Is that —?
Yep. It’s Ms. Mucho again. Same car 3122, same corner, same seat. Only now she appears more tranquil, mouth shut and hood pulled halfway over her face. She wipes her nose with a tissue as the train shuts its doors and takes her into the night.