Saturday night, just before eight, the local Mr. Special supermarket. The big one out on Road 100, not the small one in the middle of Carbonell Hell.
As the small man with the Teamsters cap pulled out his wallet to begin self-service checkout, something fell to the floor. I bent over to pick it up and his foot slammed on top of a six-inch butterfly knife with orange tape around the skeleton handles. He quickly retrieved it, We straightened up and I had a small smile on My face as I watched him begin his checkout.
After a couple of items, he says to Me: "That's for fucking Puerto Ricans, if they decide to get fucking stupid like they do. Fuck them up for being fucking stupid around here."
I stared at him.
He said at Me: "That's for fucking Puerto Ricans, if they decide to get fucking stupid like they do. Fuck them up for being fucking stupid around here." Again. Word for word.
"Fuck you too," I said, smiling.
"What was that? What'd you say?" He leaned in, sharp.
"Fuck you too." Still smiling.
Unless you know Me or have seen My picture, you will miss the point that I look really really like a gringo. And the small guy's comment was offensive in two ways: He thought I was an "American," not a Puerto Rican and he...is...Puerto Rican. Or that sub-species known as NuYorican, who are Puerto Rican by birth or direct ancestry, but loathe everything about Puerto Rico except the goddamned welfare checks they get for being useless. And if he thought I was--as I am--Puerto Rican, then his comment was the rat fart of a coward and deserved a put-down.
Thus, Fuck you too.
He blew up at Me. ""Fuck me? Fuck you! And your mother!" I kept smiling. He started yelling. Half his words were lost in his attempt to put Me down and as he postured, I waved My hand at him as if to a small moth and said "Back off. Your breath smells like My dick."
Stunned him. "What did you say?" He leaned towards Me, angry and puzzled. I let him have it again. "I said move back because your breath smells like My dick."
He stiffened. "Fuck you!" he yelled. "My breath?! Fuck you!" People around Us started staring. I was holding a half-gallon of juice and two cans, watching him get angrier by the second. "You want to start something? Want me to to fuck you up? You telling me my breath smells like your dick? I'll fuck you up! I will fuck you up!" His voice rose.
A pot-bellied man edged around to My left and I tried to catch his movement. As the "fuck you up" guy was trying to pay--asking for an assistant manager's help in perfect boricua Spanish--I noticed the rotund man was staring at knife boy, not at Me.
I put the half-gallon and the cans down, My heart thudding hard. I wanted My hands free, but I also wanted the yeller to grasp that I wasn't taking him or his threats seriously. He had to edge back to avoid touching what I placed on the checkout ledge. He swiped his credit card, his wallet showing a Banco Popular ATM debit card and an out-of-state driver's license. He signed his name with the electronic pen, something starting with a J, then stepped back, slammed the pen to the edge of its leash, pulled out the knife, opened it and yelled "I'll wait for you outside, motherfucker!"
Uh-oh. Witty don't mess with crazy. I gave him a small smile.
"Outside, motherfucker!" He brandished the knife openly, holding it up like it was torch of reason, unlit. "I will...fuck you up!" He pointed the knife at Me.
My smile had faded. "You're welcome to try."
He grabbed the two bags a clerk had nervously tossed near him. He walked a few paces, turned and yelled "You fuck with me and you get fucked up!" He stopped at another checkout counter, waved the knife in My general direction and yelled even louder "I am tired of being fucked around here! Every day it's some fucking thing or the other! I am tired of fucking Puerto Rico fucking me around! I will wait FOR YOU OUTSIDE!!"
Some 50 people were looking at him and when his scream ended, I was leaning against the laser panel. As all eyes turned to Me, I smiled.
I swiped My items and paid. As I bagged them, I noticed a small tube of crackers the knife jerk had left. I picked them up, knowing that when I saw him I would give them back with a "You're crackers" bon mot.
Everyone watched Me walk out. The exit area was empty except for a mother and her toddler coming up to get a cart. I looked around at the empty space and kept going to My car.
"Are you okay?" I stopped and turned. Three men, one with a security guard uniform, another with similar uniform pants and T-shirt and the pot-bellied guy were calling to Me. "Are you all right?"
I walked over to them. They had gone out to get the knife maniac's description and license plate, but the guy, still yelling and waving his knife, almost ran to his car and gunned it out of the parking lot in reverse. Almost crashed into the fence and the embankment before peeling away to the south.
They asked Me what happened and I explained, in Spanish. I had barely finished repeating the guy's opening remarks when all three said "Ese es un NuYorican." I laughingly told them to not mistake Me for a gringo, because I was born in Aguadilla.
The three men, Nelson the rotund one, a truck driver who moved behind Me to help out if needed; Tony, the off-duty security guard and Quiñones, the guard on duty, are all New York Puerto Ricans. All three. Fully bilingual. Living and working in My part of the world. Not NuYoricans. Puerto Ricans.
We chatted for a while, commenting on the jerk's attitude, the incident as it unfolded and how the maniac should have been arrested for waving a knife in public. I thanked them for the attention, gave the crackers to the poor assistant manager who had to deal with the moron and went home.
Yes, I am an idiot. My mouth got Me in trouble again. The situation went from merely insulting to out-of-My-control. Could have been worse, literally a knife's edge away from becoming a disaster. But I know I said what I said because I don't see any reason not to state what I believe in this kind of situation so long as I am alone and thus don't place a loved one or a companion in danger. And really: I can't stand stupidity.
Admittedly, not even My own.
The Jenius Has Spoken.