I’ve been dropped off at the train station and I’m waiting to take a train downtown. Alone. Outside. Wearing shorts, wedges, a tank, and an oversized jacket. I countdown the minutes until my 3:06 p.m. train comes.
I wander to a wooden bench and sit down while I talk to my mom on the phone. As our conversation ends, a strange older man comes walking towards me.
He looks rugged. Worn out denim is slug around his hips and the hem is destroyed at the heels of his shoes. His blue cotton shirt is faded and has a stain on the left side. What is left of his hair has turned a light shade of gray. The length of his disheveled facial hair remains a charcoal color.
“Sit by myself over here, or sit by a pretty girl right over there?” the strange man loudly asks the air.
Well, things are about to get weird, I think to myself.
I roll my eyes and look away from the man. He lurks over and sits right next to me. Not on the edge of the bench like any other respectful person with boundaries. No. He sits directly next to me, my leg barely inches away from his. I scoot away from him and regret not putting my ear buds in earlier. I don’t like talking with strangers.
“Hi pretty lady,” he says as he glazes his eyes over me like I’m a piece of meat.
“Hi,” I reply and look away.
This man is still here. As of now, he thinks I am a 23-year-old elementary school teacher named Brittany. I have asked no questions about him. I don’t want to know anything about him. I want him to move away from me and stop looking at me the way a child looks at a piñata.
He keeps mumbling conversation that is almost inaudible, to which I reply to by showing a half smile, staring off into the distance, and occasionally laughing sadly. I don’t know why he’s here. I’ve given every sign to him that I want to be left alone.
“You know, you shouldn’t go downtown. Lots of crazy people live there,” he mumbles to me.
I stare at him because it’s the only reaction I have.
Ah, but you’re crazy, and here you are, I think to myself.
Two men who work at the station in a white truck drive by and look at me. I make eye contact with them. I send a S.O.S. message to them in my brain and they keep driving. It starts to rain and I suddenly feel like I’m in a bad movie. Of course it has to rain.
I send a quick text my mom saying to call me because of the man who won’t leave me alone; it’s the only way I can think of to get away. When she calls, I pick up my backpack and walk around the outside of the station to the other side. After I get off the phone with her, I look to the right, then the left, and am relieved to find that he didn’t follow me.
But he did. I turn my head to the right and see him out of the corner of my eye. I roll my eyes and lean my head against the brick wall behind me. I pick up my phone and hold it to my ear and pretend to be calling someone.
The white truck drives by again and stops. I look at it for a second, then look to my left — the opposite way of the creepy old man. I see a worker get out of the truck and walk towards me in his safety vest. He asks if I’m okay and I tell him yes. I explain that the man is a bit creepy, but I’ll be okay.
The worker says he’s been watching me on the security cameras and was concerned when the man followed me. They wanted to make sure I was doing fine. He offered to send the train company’s police over, but I assured him I would be okay. The worker walks back to his truck and waits there.
I now have a 6-foot-tall, 230 pound man standing next to me. He is wearing a bright blue shirt embroidered with the word “police” on it. He doesn’t say much, but he is very kind. He’s now protecting me. He will periodically look at me then look around. I suspect he’s looking for the man from earlier, but I don’t see him.
I feel safe.
The train pulls up. I thank the officer and walk towards the train. I walk to the open doors; all the open doors have a red light above them, I learned that last year when I took my first train home alone.
Just as I’m stepping onto the train, I don’t feel safe anymore. I feel eyes on me. I look over my shoulder and see the creepy man from earlier. He’s leaning against the building, staring at me. Chills send through me as I hurry onto the train.
As I wait for the train to pull away, I watch him watch me from outside the train’s windows.
I wonder why he’s staring at me.
I wonder why he never got on the train.
I wonder why he’s still standing there.
I wonder if he’ll leave when he sees that I’ve left.
I wonder if he does this every day.
I wonder why I never thought to ask him.
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