It’s the middle of the day. You are coming from one work meeting and on your way to another. You go down the subway stairs. A train is pulling in as you swipe your Metro-card. It’s not packed, but there are people.
You take a seat in a row of four seats to the left of the door. There is one other person sitting in the row. She is wearing a black niqab. There is an empty seat between the two of you. All that’s visible is her eyes. Not even her eye-brows or nose. You notice her feet. She’s wearing shoes that don’t have laces. They are not masculine or feminine and they are large. Grandma what big feet you have….
You don’t want to stare, but you look to the side and see what you can of the face. Plump bit of cheek. Dark copper skin. No make-up, no mascara. It’s hard to tell with only this side view, but there’s nothing “womanly” about what you see. Her body too is so covered it’s hard to make out the shape. She has a bag — it’s not a purse, more like a small briefcase with a zipper. You feel a weight in your legs like when you suddenly can’t move in a dream when something bad is about to happen.
She pulls a small leather-bound book from the bag and opens it. The print is Arabic and the borders are very elaborate. She looks like she is praying. You notice her hands holding the book. Her hands are unadorned and quite big. Suddenly you think of the phrase from that old TV show. Man hands.
The train pulls into the next stop. What do you do?