When the play begins, the black man, Clay, is alone in a subway rail car. The stage directions imply that the beautiful white girl, Lula, has set her sights on him for reasons that should become clearer as the play progresses. She stares at him, and when he catches her eye, "begins very premeditatedly to smile" (4). He returns the smile "for a moment, without a trace of self-consciousness" (4). A little later he appears to regret this "instinctive" if "undesirable" (4) response and only becomes more confident when the train moves on and he hopes to be left to savor the pleasant memory of this "brief encounter" (4) by himself. Lula, however, seeks him out and takes a seat beside him, greeting him with a "Hello" (5). After accusing him of staring at her, of taking mental "potshots" of her "ass and legs" (7) she reveals in her first significant statement that she had boarded the train with the express intention of tracking him down: "I even got into this train, going some other way than mine. Walked down the aisle. . .searching you out" (7). This makes clear the fact that Lula had deliberately set her sights on Clay that day, for premeditated reasons of her own. In a sense, she seems to have made up her mind to hunt him down.
Clay is pleasantly aroused by the attention of this beautiful woman although he cannot make her out. She appears to know quite a bit about him. Nevertheless she disavows all previous knowledge of him as individual, and very confidently declares that she knows his type "like the palm of my hand" (17). She appears to believe in giving fair warning, as the following words of another very significant statement will show:
(She feints a seriousness to cover an actual somber tone.)
I lie a lot.
It helps me control the world. (9)
This seems to be a very prescient bit of self-knowledge on her part. Control of her surroundings, including the people around her, seems to be an important consideration with her. Right from the moment she first trained the telescope of her sight on Clay, she has tried quite hard to control this stranger who in her words, "could be a handsome man" (12).
When Lula ridicules Clay's westernized manner of dress, it is plain to the audience if not to Clay that she is an unabashed black-basher. In fact, she is almost openly abusive when she snaps at him for wearing a " three-button suit": "What right do you have to be wearing a three-button suit and striped tie Your grandfather was a slave, he didn't go to Harvard" (18). However, Clay does not reply in kind to this, he is content to merely set the record straight about his grandfather-"My grandfather was a night watchman" (18). He self-deprecatingly tells her that, in college, "I thought I was Baudelaire" (19). She gives a biting retort: "I bet you never thought you were a black nigger" (19). Clay "is stunned"(19) at this, but quite sportingly, "he quickly tries to appreciate the humor" (19) while Lula "almost shrieks" : "A black Baudelaire" (19).
Lula's only intention all along was to manipulate and humiliate Clay within the confines of the subway car and, if possible, outside it, too. She first seduces his attention, and then, perhaps feeling that he was not sufficiently under her control, tries to excite him sexually. When he refuses to