I´ve just witnessed Andre – German, thin, rectilinear nose and strait blond, the embodiment of what a German male “should” look like to foreign eyes – being spit directly in the face by another man. Andre is the boyfriend of a girl I´ve just recently met, and the three of us happened to go out to a secretive chill-out-party, to which one was invited on a mouth-to-mouth basis for it wasn´t advertised anywhere. It was a great party except for the scary part which took place, short before midnight by the Strassenbahn stop as we were returning home.
While I was busy buying cigarettes at the closest gas station, both Andre and Susanna were being nagged by a stranger which kept staring at Susanna and insulting Andre for apparently being “too German”. As soon as joined them the guy immediately turned his attention on me, which truth be said is no surprise since I do have a talent to act as a magnet for crazy people. I offered him a cigarette as a way to calm him down and kept talking with him, looking him in the eye with the most confident look I could manage, to show him that we were really all on the same boat, just trying to coupe with life and that I understood a bit about his frustration. This seemed to work, though he came too close to me and demanded five cigarettes instead of one. As he approached my face I though: this is it! This is the night when I will probably get hurt, when I will have to defend myself with my teeth the best way I can! I was very calm and yet scared and alert at the same time. I thought if I break now and give him five cigarettes he will have the feeling he is in control and that I am a victim, if I don´t accept his terms I will only infuriate him… And there I was, before a typical dilemma when someone with physical or other kid of superiority faces you with profound hate in the eye! I tried to hold my ground and told him that it was not possible, I would give him a second cigarette and that was it. He accepted it and turned to Andre to spit right in his face and in his shoe, cursing how much he hated him! Andre didn´t move a millimeter, didn´t say anything, just remained where he was.
Things were definitely out of control, we were beyond the point of rationality, we were on unknown ground and anything could happen. I evaluated my chances, me with my 57 kilos against a taller, stronger black man. I thought of all the great African athletes I know, their physical unbelievable skills, I thought of the marathon star in my country and how I should have taken self-defense classes at some point… If he wanted he could crash me just like that, but I wouldn´t go down without a fight if it would come to that…
Between Andre´s passive but stoic attitude, my sympathetic and “cool” response and Susanna´s rational argumentative talk – she kept saying: But you don´t know him! How can you hate him? – we somehow intuitively managed the situation and to step into the next Straßenbahn without getting ourselves hurt nor into a fight.
But the question remains: what to do when someone looks you in the eye – without really seeing you – with profound hate?