If You See Something, Say Something, a short story by Eyrna Heisler

I hate the way people look at me like I’m some sort of eye-candy, existing simply for their own pleasure. The worst was when I spent a summer in Mexico. Spain was almost as bad. Even in New York, they have no issue with whistling or making comments. I hate it. I don’t even understand why I get looks. I don’t find myself remotely attractive.

I kept this in mind as I swiped my student MetroCard as fast as possible to get through the subway turnstile. I hated the subway, the number of times I’d already gotten lost and scared out of my wits was too many to count, and I was still in my first month at a new school.

“Miss, come over here please.” My head snapped to the left, where two police officers were beckoning me over. The one calling to me was short, balding, blond, and close to forty. His partner was younger, tall and thin and Hispanic.

“Let me see your MetroCard, please,” the older one said. I gave him a questioning look, but removed my MetroCard form my wallet nonetheless.

“This is a student MetroCard.” It felt like an accusation, not a question.

“Sure.” I hoped my short, terse answer was enough of a hint. I couldn’t start yelling at a cop, “Stop checking me out, you old ugly fat pervert, just leave me alone.” I am incredibly sick of dealing with this, isn’t there enough going on?

“Are you a student?” His tone was laced with skepticism.

I don’t need your skepticism, and why the hell are you talking to me like I did something wrong? And my eyes are up here, idiot. I nodded at the policeman.

“What school do you go to?”


“I need to see your ID.”

“Here.” I had to use all my self-control not to shove my ID in his face. He took a couple moments studying it, before handing it back to me.

“Oh. It is you,” he said.

I wanted to shout at him. Of course, you moron, it’s me. Who else would it be? I’m a freaking thirteen-year-old girl, for god’s sake. Because I’m a person with self-control, I decided that verbally attacking the police officer and his partner would not be the best thing to do. I would probably end up in a whole lot of trouble. So instead, I gave him a questioning look.

“It’s because you don’t look like you’re in high school,” the police officer’s partner said, his eyes roaming where they shouldn’t since he was, after all, a police officer.

I nodded, I mumbled a good-bye, grabbed my MetroCard, and walked toward the train. The Four or Five is usually relatively empty when I get on, seeing as this is one of the first stops in downtown Manhattan.

I got a seat in the corner of the train, one of the two person seats, as far away from everyone else as I could possibly get. I took out my book, Unbearable Lightness, by Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres’ eating disordered girlfriend, and started reading.

Two minutes later a man came and sat next to me. I have this problem with being close to strangers. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable and I attempt to shy away, but when there is no room I start getting frustrated and panicking. This is how I felt just then. I had no room to breathe. I attempted to re-focus on my book.

“Is that a Christian book?” he asked. Why do people talk to me?

“No.” I attempted a smile, and turned back to my book.

“Oh I was just thinking because of the title of the book, you know, it sounds Christian.”

I forced an awkward laugh. “Yeah.”

“Actually, there is this really good Christian book you should read, it’s called God’s Smuggler.” It took a lot of self-control to not stare at his prominent chin. This must be how people feel about my breasts.

“Thank you very much for the suggestion, but I’m not religious.”

“Oh, well you should read it anyway, or come to my church. Just to look around. It’s a great place. You don’t have to believe in God to come, just walk through and listen. It’s really great, there are granola bars and drinks handed out.”

“Thank you for the offer, but I don’t believe in organized religion. I think many religions take advantage of people and their weaknesses, and their need to believe in something. In my opinion people just invented God and Religion to make them feel better about themselves. People strive to understand the unknown and inventing religious pieces of work and saying God wrote it, gives them a purpose for their lives.”

He looks at me with curiosity. “But God is here for you. If you have faith He can help you so much.”

“If there is a God I highly doubt that he would waste his time helping me. He should be focusing on the millions of people around the world dying of starvation, or trying to stop wars that He started. The number of wars throughout history that have been fought over religion in the name of God is ridiculous. Do you really think that God would be up there in Heaven going, ‘Yeah, Hitler, you go, way to annihilate the Jews!’ What’s really ridiculous is how similar these religions are, they all stem from the same source, one of the oldest religions known to man is—“

“Christianity, right?”

“No, actually, lots of Sumerian legends were adopted by other civilizations throughout time. For example, the story of Noah’s Ark is found in The Epic of Gilgamesh. People read them and then some feel they should start their own religions, using the stories they have read but altering them slightly. For example, the Old Testament is largely the Torah. Then people have the nerve to say their religion is better than others!”

He kept nodding as if he was seriously listening to me, but I wasn’t so sure, because he still had that weird, happy smile on his face. “Yes, but that is no reason not to believe in God,” he said.

“Well, personally I have never experienced anything to make me believe there is a God. If you get me one hundred people from all different religions that have all seen God and they describe him the same way, I will believe you. But I have never seen any proof of there being a God, and people can’t seem to agree on what God is, so I don’t think he exists.”

“But you also don’t have any proof that He doesn’t exist.”

“Yes, but in my opinion that’s like you saying, ‘I am a millionaire,’ and me saying, ‘Do you have a million dollars?’ And you responding,‘Well I do not have any proof that I am a millionaire, but I could be a millionaire if I just believe.’ In this case I don’t think the thought process of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ works, it’s more like ‘false until proven true.’”

“I see where you are coming from, but I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for God—”

“THIS IS FORTY SECOND STREET GRAND CENTRAL STATION. THE NEXT STOP IS FIFTY NINTH STREET,” the monotone digital voice blasted through the train.

“I’m really sorry, but this is my stop, I have to go. It was very nice meeting you. I hope you achieve all you want in life, good-bye,” I said, smiling, grabbing my bag and heading toward the door while trying not to hit people in the crowded train.

“Good-bye, maybe I’ll see you in the future. I’ll pray for you.”

I barely heard him respond as the doors closed behind me, and the train got ready to speed down the tracks. I stopped and watched the train disappear into the darkness.

As I came up out of the subway station I passed a parked police car. The one in the passenger seat had his hand hanging out the window and pointed me out to his partner. He said, “No, that ain’t no Catholic schoolgirl outfit.”

No kidding, dude, do I look like a Catholic schoolgirl to you?

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  • Rking

    Very powerful. Thank you.

  • Jnbkola

    very well written . . .
    B. Kola

  • n

    I would’ve left my seat IMMEDIATELY to get away from that FAKE PERVERT! I have perverted old men they need to get the hint already and leave younger women alone JERKS!!!

  • n

    I HATE perverted old men- get the hell away a-holes!

  • BuffyJMHS

    Humble-bragging. First world problems. Blind cultural elitism. Look, I know it’s a pain to get oggled. Not saying it’s not. But you are not the first nor are you the last to deal with this. And you do sound like you are humble-bragging — “Oh, the agony of being eye-candy!” “Why do people talk to me?” Why? Because they are being friendly? Maybe they are LONELY. Who are you to judge them?

    And judge you do. This whole piece is judgment. If you want the reader to feel your — or the girl’s — pain, this piece doesn’t succeed. It just shows us a petulant young girl who thinks she is open-minded but is actually blinded by cultural elitism. The contempt she feels for the born-again guy is palpable. Why not respect his beliefs? She is angry he doesn’t respect hers — why is she excused for doing the same thing to him? She shows absolutely no consciousness of how arrogant and self-righteous she is.

    A little….if not self-deprecation, at least AWARENESS would be welcome here. This girl does not for one minute question her opinions. I would bet she thinks she is totally unique — no one is like her, no one has suffered as she has — everyone else in the world feels the exact same way. And the sooner she understands that, the better for her writing. There is talent — REAL TALENT and potential here. And that is what makes this all so disappointing and frustrating. The person writing the piece really needs NOT to grow UP, but to grow OUT — to stop being so self-centered and judgmental. Have some compassion. I am sure you think you are compassionate. But you see yourself only as a victim and everyone else as a bother, a nuisance, a possible attacker. Every single person mentioned (other than the speaker) is bad. And the world isn’t like that.