James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.


An Imagined Mugging

Tuesday night I was going to be mugged. At least I believed so at the time. It was my usual commute home, waiting for the Howard Red Line at the Garfield stop.

It seemed like it was going to be gentle. One of opportunity, not brute force. “Hey, what time is it?” he asked. His eyes were glued at my pockets, noticing my headphones snaking into them.

“Waiting for the perfect opportunity to snatch my phone at the right angle as I read off the time. The train platform steps would be his escape.” I crafted this scenario in my head with immediate finesse.

I looked at my watch instead and said “6:28pm.” He quickly walked away.

I still remember it. I was looking at him in the eye, I could clearly identify him. His face so close, I could smell the Carmex he recently applied.

My immediate reaction was to say, “why are you doing this, we can do better,” but I had a gut-punching fear of appearing condescending. As he walked away something familiar clicked. 

On the CTA or any public place, a stranger will see us both as trouble. I cannot wear my resume on my chest. People clutch their iPhones when I ask them for the time.

Then it hit me, I became them.

Maybe he really just wanted to know the time, but I assumed a mugging was in his plan. I imagined and crafted this scenario in my head. A struggling paradox. A living hypocrite I was in that moment. A judging eye I placed on that young man. It broke me down deeply and I didn’t know what to think.

I’m still trying to unpack it all.

James T. Green