Of course, he sat next to me.
A dozen open seats don’t hold a candle to sharing a bench with a young woman in a red coat. Perhaps it was the contrast that drew him there—his torn jeans an antithesis to my neat dress. We could have been a fable, one of differences and similarities, of humanness, normalcy, transcendence. One without a clear moral but steeped in meaning. An Oolong parable.
Things got weird when he plopped his knapsack on his knees and began rooting around within. The sack was the kind vagabonds tote around in classic movies, an old military style with two leather straps and brass buckles. From its depths he pulled out a Samsung tablet. Contrast, indeed, to my dog-eared copy of Jurassic Park.
He tapped the screen, navigating quickly to a series of video clips.
My spidey sense tingled. Or maybe it was the “intuition” I’ve been told all women come programmed with. The creep-ray we keep next to our gaydar.
The first video clip was out of season, but not altogether strange—gymnasts stretching and then vaulting. It was the quality of a camcorder held up to a TV screen, scratchy and distorted. Then he paused it.
Odd how Jurassic Park served as my tether to reality, a reality which circumstance was quickly tearing from my grasp. I couldn’t keep my eyes from being drawn to that screen. In the dimly-lit bus, it shone brightly. I, moth, could not resist.
Things deteriorated from there.
The next video started with giggles. A naked woman running through a house.
She paused in a doorway, laughing, coyly looking out at us. She was followed by a Japanese game show. More giggling. A significant pause. Cleavage.
The clips continued in dizzying order: more gymnasts, crotch-shots, bouncing girls, an interlude—a cameo of Putin jiujitsuing another man— then more game shows and giggles. Each new clip felt shorter than the last. Shorter, but more graphic. Porn by proxy.
Boxed in by the bench at my knees, the window to my right, the fuzzy seat at my back, and this man to my left—I’d never felt more trapped.
I wish I could say that was all. But it wasn’t over yet.
The bus always stops in Herndon first. The relief I felt as the bus pulled into the park-and-ride’s roundabout was indescribable, as was my horror at the revelation that the man beside me had no intention of getting up.
I put away my book, picked up my purse, looped it around my arm, and placed my hand on the rail.
He just sat there.
“Excuse me,” I said.
He ignored me. “Excuse me,” I said louder, panic leaking into my voice.
A slight movement. His knees tilted to the side, a pass opened. He did not stand, as bus custom demands, but he provided a small opening.
I took it.
Pushing past him and running for the front of the bus, I cursed as I flew by the driver and onto the pavement. The suddenness of the silence outside astounded me. I realized, then, that I had been screaming in my mind for 20 minutes.
Never has a stranger made me feel so uncomfortable. I drew no lasting lesson from the encounter. Sometimes people are creepy. Sometimes people ride buses.
Logic dictates that sometimes creepy people ride buses.
First published on Medium.