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I got on the bus and stood beside a white lady. She seemed to be uncomfortable. She was busy securing her belongings and [stood like a coiled centipede] as if she was scared I would snatch away her handbag.

What is the appropriate word/phrase/idiom to describe this situation?

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  • You can use the expression: be “on the defensive” - If someone is on the defensive, they are trying to protect themselves or their interests because they feel unsure or threatened. (Collins).
    – user 66974
    Jul 16 at 11:27
  • She was paranoid. She had a chip on her shoulder. If there was a racial difference, you could say that she appeared to be afraid of non-whites or people of color. Or maybe she was just afraid of you -- are you scary looking? Sadly, "coiled centipede" doesn't work in English -- but some people will be adventurous enough to appreciate it. Jul 17 at 1:09

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