I’m coming home from another successful bike ride. It’s Monday night and I’m on the 9:30 pm Sound Transit going South. The muscles in my inner thighs are aching from the last hill ride we all took. Exhilerating to have the rush of something stiff and cold between your legs and commanding your legs to charge up the hill. I end up scrolling cat pictures on my way home. Then I notice him.
The grubby looking man starting to come over and invite himself over to talk to a couple of women just a few feet ahead of me. It’s not the grubbiness that caught my attention. It was the uninvited conversation that took place.
That familar hair behind my neck start to rise and I watch him behind my mask.
“Hey ladies, I was just noticing how fine you both look”.
I ask myself has this pick up line ever worked on anyone besides a bad cheesy porn movie?
The two women shift uneasily in their seats. The brunette move close to her friend and pretend that she is sleeping.
The man shifts himself in the seat and clears his voice.
“I said, you two are both fine. I said hello!”
The brunnette opens her eyes and meekly says “Hello.”
At this point, the neck on the back of my neck are standing at attention. How often have I been in their situation. Ignoring the attention of strangers and then having to be brought into uncomfortable awkwardness of conversation. The train is silent of all conversation as other people start to notice but they don’t do anything. Everyone is quiet.
The man takes this as his invitation to continue.
He extends his hand and introduces himself.
“My name is Jim. What’s yours?”
I squint behind my mask and look at the brunette. I feel for her. We are taught to respond accordingly. Good little girls who respond accordingly to parents, brothers, uncles.
Say hello to the nice man, Lisa.
But what happens when those men take advantage of the goodness of complacency. Sheep to the fold? I find myself gritting my back teeth. My dentist tells me that I need to stop grinding my teeth. Grinding your teeth will further erode the teeth. Even that is complacent.
The brunnete looks at the man.
“Listen. I’m tired. We’ve been traveling all day.”
“Ok, ok. “The man chortles as if that was his way to admit he was turned down.” I understand you don’t want to chat. Have a good day.” He then gets up and looks across the train. He spots me eyeing him. My bad, I guess.
I think not, buddy. I too shift my attention back to my phone.
Just then, my stop arrives. I get up and start to move around him. He pretends to walk past me and me and the two women walk out onto the platform. The man starts to shuffle his way down the aisle and there is a small part of me breathing a sigh of relief.
There are other customers walking towards the elevator, me and the two women. We welcome the inclusion of strangers. Then in the corner of my eye, he gets off the train and heads towards us. My heart races as I start envisioning the conversation that is about to unfold.
I start thinking of all of the things I wish to say to his advances.
Stop. Stop talking to us. Why? I want to look at him and yell.
“Because I’m the Mother of All Things Sacred!” And I command you to stop thinking of us as pretty little things! You Mother Fucker!”
I want there to be music playing in the background when I say this to him. I want Rage Against the Machine, Killing in the Name to be blaring behind me when I say this to him. God, I love that song.
I think of all of the pent up rage that I could summon. Demons stuffed deep within me. All of the rage that I could summon when I’m told to be silent. To be good. To be not heard but seen. Neat and tidy.
I imagine the look on his face as I face him toe to toe. The look of shock that a woman stood up to his advances. I imagine the awkward silence between the two of us. The quiet unfurling anger that rises.
I imagine feeding his fear to my carnivorous plants and taking pleasure in watching this take place. Does this make me a monster? Does this make me a psychopath because I am defending myself?
He comes towards us and we all get into the elevator. The two women are huddled together and me and my bike are standing next to them. He advances. I stand firm next to my bike. My steel stead. My defender of all things good and fun.
He starts to ask me something. It’s muffled and I can’t hear.
“No.” I say firmly back “No. I don’t want to talk to you.”
I look at him straight through my mask and I’m frowning. I’m trying to conjur up my face into the most squinched up version of myself. Ugly and horrific. I am conjuring up Medusa. I’m bracing myself as Athena.
He tells all of us “God Bless You.”
The women and I stand together.
“God has nothing to do with this.” I tell him flatly.
The elevator door opens and all of us flee outward from the cage. We are birds taking flight. Freedom from the cage.
My heart is racing. I hop on my bike and my heart is now in my throat and I am riding as quickly as my legs can pump.
I see from the corner of my eyes that the two women are running towards Red Apple. The man stands alone on the street.