Michael Harris is looking as intently as he can at his phone. The 25-year-old accounting firm intern on Sydney’s inner-west train line thinks he‘s done everything possible to avoid any risk of contact with the bald, topless and shoe-less bloke in cargo pants stomping his way through the carriages.
And yet the loud voice shrill enough to cut glass rings out all the same: “What are you looking at mate? Huh? WHATCHA LOOKING AT!”
The bloke has stopped his stomping long enough to direct this question at Mr Harris, who tries with all his might to focus on finishing a think piece he’s reading on the political significance of Marvel’s Black Panther, a film he watched just last night.
But such deflection tactics don’t work with a man as determined as the guy with beads of sweat running down alongside a bulging vein on the side of his skull. “I SAID what are you looking at?”, he asks, swigging from his longneck in a brown bag on the 10:20am all stops. “Mate! Mate! What are you looking at? Fucken look at me when I talk to you! Mate!”
As Mr Harris wracks his brain for anything from his sheltered northern suburbs upbringing to indicate the best course of action with the least likelihood of escalating the situation, the bloke’s friend from the next carriage opens the carriage door and shouts: “Wayne! What are you fucken doing mate? COME ON WAYNE!”
“Yeah mate, I’m COMIN’!” Wayne says, shooting one last aggressive glance at the accounting graduate before swigging from his longneck and moving on to stomp through the next carriage, leaving Mr Harris to happily share the Black Panther think piece, adding the comment, with a shaking hand, on the significance of culture giving a voice to the dispossessed no matter how uncomfortable it makes the more privileged feel.