A Woman Tried to Steal My Shoe




I am not afraid of confrontation, but I am afraid of people. When something bad happens to me--a dude grabs me in a club, or someone yells at me on the train--I freeze, like one of those fainting goat videos on the internet. My body goes stiff, and my brain just hopes that whatever will happen, happens quickly. But like I said, I'm pretty confrontational. It means that when I get into trouble, I'm a damsel in distress. And when I'm out of trouble, I am intolerable. 

So I'm leaving the office of a doctor I can't afford, and my prognosis is bad: I've developed asthma from moving into a new apartment, with no recognizable source. It's 1pm, and my boyfriend drops me off at the Green Line, which runs from a questionable part of Maryland to a questionable part of DC. I am wearing my favorite shoes, which my aunt bought for me in a strange Taiwanese ritual--the shoes are there so I will get a promotion. They're blue, with elastic laces. 

With me is a plastic bag for a simple lunch: a sandwich and an expensive, farmer's market apple--a treasure, since I technically can't afford to pay the doctor, let alone eat fancy yuppie food. 2 minutes to Branch Avenue. I call up my mom, and start to tell her about the asthma. 

A woman gets on the train. She's short and stocky, in a blue velour track suit. She's one of two other people in the car with me. She looks at the others, then at me. She walks up to me.

"Give me your shoe." 

"What? No." Remember: my mom is on the phone, and she can hear only my half of the conversation.

"Give me your fucking shoe." The woman has no weapon, and when I stand (to defend my favorite shoes), I learn two things about her: 1. she is only barely taller than I am, maybe 5'3", and 2. she is wearing only one shoe. A white and blue tennis shoe. 

I can also see why she chose me, out of the others: her feet, like mine, are tiny. In that nebulous space between size 6 and 7. Her unshod foot has no sock, and it's just chilly enough that you'd really want one. 

"NO," I insist, then I passionately take the Lord's name in vain, with a couple fucks thrown in. Sorry, ma.

She looks at me for a moment, then says, "Then give me your fuckin' lunch." 

My poor sandwich is defended only by a plastic grocery bag. She grabs it, and because by this point, I have frozen like a fainting goat, I grip the bag tightly and let her drag me to the ground. My knee burns; the DC metro is not known for its plush carpeting. My apple--my precious, Eastern Market honeycrisp apple--rolls out of the bag and hits her foot. She grabs it, leaving me on the ground, and nonchalantly walks to the adjacent car. 

The two men in the car have risen, but seeing her retreat, sit back down. Wordlessly. 

I tell my mom, "I'll call you back." She's been in worse situations, so she hangs up. I dust myself off and hop off the train. No one--not a cop or a Metro official--is left on the platform. 

When I report the crime to a station manager, the first question he asks is, "What, was there no one on the platform?" He catches himself. "Of course there wasn't." This is the green line, after all. No one patrols the platforms. "I'll get the cops. What was stolen?" 

It's humiliating to say: "Well, she was after my shoe. But all she got was one apple." 

The station manager has to suppress a chuckle when he reports this to the Metro PD. When he's asked what was stolen, he jerks forward, as if the joke is about to escape from his mouth, but he's caught it just in time. "Goods," he deadpans. "Goods were stolen." 

By this time, someone has found a bandaid for my skinned knee and my boyfriend has been called back. Metro PD sends a friendly bike cop, who asks me to explain what's happened. When I get to the part about the apple--that's when I burst into tears. 

Men react weirdly to helplessness, I think. My boyfriend, who is deeply feminist, doesn't get to be chivalrous often. He's all, "We're going to press charges!" and "My girlfriend is injured!" The metro cop is sympathetic, but not optimistic. Although they know the exact train the woman left on (and the car, thanks to my careful counting), it took him nearly 30 minutes to show up. "She could be anywhere by now." 

I shake my head. "No. She had only one shoe. If she wanted my shoe, maybe she got someone else's. You should look for a short woman with mismatched shoes." The train is at Chinatown by now--one of the busiest metro stops. She could've gotten off at any point. 

But then, through the radio velcroed to his shoulder, we hear it: "We found the assailant." Whoa now. In my head, this woman is a one-shoed apple thief. The metro cop wants to know if I want to press charges; if so, he'll take me downtown to file an official witness statement. 

The boyfriend is all for it. But me, I'm thinking, "Man... it must suck to only have one shoe." Because that's how they caught her. She stole someone else's shoe. (Crime show enthusiasts gasp: a second victim!) They found her wandering around Chinatown exactly as I described her: wearing a blue velour track suit and two mismatched shoes. 

Last chance, the cop tells me. Helpfully, he adds, "She did injure you. Kind of." 

But I just can't do it. I can't press charges against a woman with only one shoe. All I can think is, she would've gotten away with it if only she had stolen both shoes. But she only ever asked for the one. 

"All right," the cop says. As my boyfriend and I are preparing to leave, he calls back. "I'm sorry. The apple... is probably gone." 

And that's the second worst thing to ever happen to me on the DC Metro. 

 

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