Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tram Stories I

Living in the city of Bordeaux, France, I ride the tram a lot. I lived here two years before driving, if that tells you anything. Since I love people, I watch them. You put enough humanity together, you're gonna find a story! So I'm going to start a series of short stories from the tram (and maybe the bus too).

A Person's a Person

  My body was heavy and unwieldy as I maneuvered into a priority seat on the moving tram. I sighed with relief and pulled out my book.
     At the next stop, four or five guys in their early teens got on. The group’s chief pointed to me. “Pregnant women!” he sneered. “Is it really fair that they get reserved seats?”
     I froze, not sure if I should respond or how. They’re harmless—just being stupid, I told myself and continued trying to read. I tuned them out their guffaws as the leader continued to make making fun of me. I could hear the gist of his remarks; though I was twenty-four and married, I looked young enough to be an unwed teen.
    My cheeks burned as the taunts continued. I wondered if I should just get off the tram, but the thought of walking in the heat was enough to keep me in my seat. Would no one stand up for me? The tram was crowded with late afternoon commuters; however, not a single person protested the treatment of me and my unborn child.
     Aggravated by my silence, the teen put his face inches away from mine. “Boo!” I didn’t even flinch. Despite my tension, I almost laughed. A big sister of eight, it would take more than that to startle me. The boys’ interest died out. They got off at the next station, dodging around the crowd like thin young sharks looking for a new prey.
     Afterwards, I tried to analyze the situation. My annoyance at myself for not being braver was soon covered by grief that adolescents today would have such a shameful view of the wonder of an unborn child. My belief in the kindness of strangers was also rocked to its core as I realized that the members of society around me had not intervened. In doing so, they had condoned their children’s’ behavior. Not protecting the smallest, youngest and weakest member of our civilization seems to me to be humanity at it’s lowest point.
     Now my son is nine months-old. Men and women, old and young, pause to smile at him, to ask his name and age. They are concerned that it’s too windy or too cold or too loud for him. I am sure that if he was in trouble that any number of people would step up to help, shield or defend him.
     So what’s the difference? He is a few months older, a few pounds bigger, more visible or more human?
     Whenever people wanted to, I let them touch my belly. Once or twice it was even strangers who hadn’t asked! But I wanted so much to communicate the reality of the small person being knitted together within me. I wanted people to feel his little feet kicking, hear his heart beat, see his sonogram picture.
     In whatever way I can, I want to send the message said so well by Horton the Elephant: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”


  1. Wish I had been there to yell at them for you! :D

  2. This is really well written, Jenna. Good job! So sad a commentary on people, though. :(

    I ride on trams, too. But more often on trains.