I take public transit into and out of downtown Minneapolis. I drive my car a few miles to the local lightrail (train) station, park, and ride the train for 40 minutes to my office. If I drove, more often than not I could be to my office in under 20 minutes, but with traffic, road construction, weather, and my tenuous grip on sanity, it’s best for everyone if I take the train. I can put in my head phones, read a book, knit, or zone out and life is uneventful.
Last night I got on the train a few stops before I normally do (the equivalent of 4 blocks) because my legs were sore from spin class and didn’t feel like standing. If I get on at one of the earlier stops I usually get a seat.
I settled into a seat and someone immediately plopped down into the seat next to me.
He was about my age, perhaps a couple years younger, with greasy hair and some sort of rowdy chin-fur. He smelled bad.
He said hello and I nodded politely while I tugged off my hat and mittens and crammed them into the front pocket of my purse. Then he began chatting. “I like your hair.”
“Thanks.” I responded to a text from the mister and dropped my cell phone back into my bag.
“Is your hair color natural?”
“Mostly. My highlights are pretty grown out.”
“I’m a tattoo artist. Do you have any tattoos?”
“Yes.” Digging in purse for ipod.
“Can I see?”
“No” Digging FRANTICALLY in purse for ipod.
“I design tattoos with glow in the dark ink.” Goes on at length regarding glow in the dark tattoos, spiderweb tattoos, and snake tattoos. Offers to draw on my leg with pen to show how snake tattoo would look. I pass. Where is that damned ipod?
“I also beatbox and rap.”
“Interesting.” I bet I left that thing on my desk. Shit. Why is it taking so long for the train to fill up?
He begins beatboxing/rapping and pauses a few seconds in. “What’s your name?”
“Susan.” (Not my name.)
He continues beatboxing/rapping and drops my fake name into his little song. By this point I am looking around, hoping the train gets to the next stop soon so it will fill up quickly and there will be other people nearby in case this guy goes psycho.
He pauses at the end of his little song, expecting applause, I think. I, of course, haven’t been paying any attention, since I’m eyeballing the exits and wondering if I can crawl over this guy fast enough to run out at the next stop.
“Uh, wow, that was cool.”
“Hey, Susan,” he says. “Susie,” he says dreamily. “Can I call you Susie?”
“Uh-huh.” Cell phone comes out of purse and I surreptitiously punch in the digits 9-1-1 and let my thumb hover over the green call button. Just in case
“Susie, what kind of ring is that?” he asks, gesturing to my left hand.
“My wedding band.”
“Is he a big guy?”
“Huge,” I lie. I lie shamelessly.
“Are you happy?”
“Are those real diamonds in your ring?”
“Yes. Oh, look, I see a friend, excuse me!” I hop up, clamber out of my seat, crawling over his legs in the process, and bolt for the far end of the train. I position myself next to a perfect stranger and whisper, “I’m sorry, just act like you know me.”
Creepy guy is watching me talk to this poor woman. I think the wide-eyed look of desperation I was given her earned me some sympathy.
“Um, okay,” she says. “What’s up?”
“See that guy,” I ask, nodding in his direction. He’s STARING at us.
She glances briefly and looks back at me. “Ick,” she comments.
“I know. I ran away.”
The rest of the ride is uneventful, thank God. My new friend goes back to reading her magazine and I clear the just-in-case 911 call from my phone. Creepy guy gets off at the VA Hospital and new friend exits at the next stop. “Thanks,” I call after her. She waves absently as she navigates the slippery platform.
Time to refill my pepper-spray keychain.