"You wanna run into me?"
The young man who glared back at me had to repeat himself because I had an earbud in and I did not hear him the first time. He was not happy.
"No," I replied. "I'm sorry. My bad."
The young man sniffed and turned back to his path perpendicular to my own. I wanted to say more. I wanted to have a conversation in which both of us ended up feeling good about the interaction. Instead I was left looking at my wife with puzzlement and concern. Had I really just brushed past this person without giving him the courtesy of his place on the sidewalk? Was I being so blithe or dim that was just bulling my way into his personal space?
Or maybe he was getting all aggro on me because I was in what he assumed what his space when it was really there for both of us and I was just trying to get out of the way of a car that was speeding precariously close to the crosswalk from which my wife and I were leaping.
It could have been a simple misunderstanding based on his bad day or mine. It might not have had anything to do with the flaws in our personalities or maybe it had everything to do with them. I felt the muscles in the back of my neck tense and my jaw clench as I neared the point of turning back around and adding to my previous apology.
Was I really after a confrontation? Did I want to spend any more time on this momentary awkwardness? Could I just let it go?
Apparently not, since here I am, still wondering what I should have would have could have done differently. My options seemed so limited at that instant, but now they feel so wide open. Getting my own testosterone going and seeing who would back down first seems like such an obvious urban trope. Also a potentially great way to spend the New Year in an emergency room. Even more likely blood pressures would be raised and tempers would flare for no expressed purpose but for the territorial whining that had no more consequence on the world than the second that passed between us. Or could I have reached out in some other way: offered to buy him a cup of coffee, even though I don't drink it myself. Then I would end up having to explain my personal issues surrounding caffeinated beverages, leaving me once again in that possibly arrogant position that I hoped to avoid in the first place.
I didn't want to run into him. I just wanted to be on my way. On my own way. I beg your pardon, and if you happen to read this, let's go out for a Sprite.