He walked past me, staring. I had never seen him before in my life. He looked like any man I would have seen anywhere in the world. There was nothing appealing or even unappealing about him. He had dark hair and was average in height. Not too tall and certainly not short. I watched him get closer and thought, Fuck, don’t let him catch you looking at him. Do not make eye contact!
It was too late though. As soon as I thought it, his dark eyes locked onto mine, and I turned my head away. I kept on glancing over to see if he was heading where I was heading, and I realized that he never took his eyes off of me. I clutched my bag closer to me and pushed myself against the class encasement. I had my back to it, but I was on the outside of the shelter and maybe he would be heading into it.
He kept walking past me. As he did so, I realized that he shuffles his feet almost exactly like I do because he doesn’t quite pick his feet up all the way. He lets them slide against the ground like he is floating, “shuck, shuch, schuck,” is what it sounds like. His socks with sandals were gliding on the pavement. I looked away, but I heard him say something that sounded like, “Where are you going?”
I was waiting for my bus and I didn’t want to have to explain to the man who I didn’t know what I was doing. I pointed my thumb over my shoulder, grinned, and said, “That way.”
He wasn’t amused by my response and asked me if I was heading home. I thought about it. Should I lie or engage him in conversation? How should I have responded? If I believed in what I said about home being where I am staying, then yes, I was heading to my “home.” If I believed that home is a feeling then of course I was already home. Instead, I just shook my head at the man.
“Can I come with you,” he asked me. I shook my head at this question too.
He said something else but cars rushed passed us. I didn’t know what to say to this, and I couldn’t help my natural instinct and I responded with the word, “What?”
“Would you like to go to an AA meeting with me?”
I shook my head and laughed. “I’m not an addict. No thank you.”
We stared at each other. His dark wind-breaker was hanging off his thin body and slightly catching in the breeze. His dirty sweatpants were baggy and loose too. He had them tightly cinched at the waist and I could see the remaining string dangling from under his jacket.
“Are you sure I can’t come with you?”
I shook my head, this time much more annoyed and said, “No, you can’t.”
He started to walk away and was shaking his head. I listened to his feet shuffle and watched him from the corner of my eye until I could no longer hear or see him. I was wondering what I did to provoke this response from a complete stranger. Was I dressed wrong? No, I was wearing jeans that weren’t too tight. I had my pullover sweater on and it was baggy. I had my hair pulled back and my hood on my head. I was wearing my schoolbag on my back. I had no skin on my body showing. I then had to think more about it and conclude that he was simply lonely and wanted some company of the opposite sex to distract him from his desire to relapse. That is what I concluded from the discussion, or that he was a maniac. Why else would he want to be near me and offer the AA as a meeting place? All I knew was that I wanted this man far away from me.
I felt relieved when he was out of sight and looked at my watch. The bus was scheduled to arrive in a few more minutes, and I was thankful for the expected arrival. When the bus finally came, I climbed aboard. That is when I saw that man, who recognized me too and only said, “Shit.”
He was in the middle seating area of the bus and I didn’t want to get too close to him nor did I want to walk passed him and get trapped in the back of the bus if he were to move near me. There was a man and a woman sitting near the front of the bus and I sat down across the aisle from the woman. The man was sitting behind her. I heard him call out to me, but I ignored him and reached in my bag to grab my mace. If need be, I would use it on him. I didn’t want him to know where I was going to get off of the bus and was thinking of my options. I could request a stop earlier or later than my true stop and walk the few blocks to where I needed to go.
My thoughts were interrupted by the ding of the stop requested sign glowing its orange color brightly. I looked at it and hoped it was him who had pulled the lever. It was, and he made his way off the bus, staring behind him and at me as he left.
The girl was looking at me and I exclaimed to her that I didn’t know that man. She was shocked, and asked me how true that was.
“I have never seen him before in my life. I don’t know who he is.”
“Really? I thought he was like an ex-boyfriend or something.”
“No, I don’t know who he is, but he really creeped me out earlier today,” and I told her about my encounter.
That is why you never make eye contact with strangers.