I ride the bus, a lot, and there are almost always crazy, strange, odd, freaky, interesting, entertaining etc. people riding the bus with me, but I rarely feel afraid. Last week was an exception. I was on the bus around 12;30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday and a guy got on who instantly made me feel uncomfortable. I was sitting in the area reserved for elderly and disabled people; these seats face the side of the bus rather than the front and there are two rows directly across from each other. He walked on, looked at me and sat across from me. He was tall and skeletal, with eyes that shot curious looks at me every few seconds. I had clearly gotten onto his radar and I didn’t want to be there. His face was dirty, but he had a manicured mustache that made me think he wasn’t another run of the mill crazy guy living on the streets. He wore filthy tan cotton pants and a light blue zip up hoodie that was frayed at the cuffs and hanging off of his bony shoulders. His slip on graying espadrilles were torn and falling off his feet. He sat with his legs and arms crossed, throwing glances at me as if he was contemplating doing me harm.
After about 5 minutes, he got up and sat next to me. I was afraid. All I wanted to do was get away from him, but I could barely breathe and was scared to move; perhaps he would shift his attention to someone else if I sat really still and pretended I wasn’t there. It didn’t work; I could feel him looking at me. I finally moved toward the back door of the bus as if I were going to exit soon, and sat in a seat on the aisle. He moved again, 3 seats in front of me, and put up his hood, pulling it tight around his face. His back was facing me but I saw him looking at me in the reflections off the windows. He got up and moved again, walking past me to the very back of the bus. I didn’t turn around, but I knew he had his eyes on me.
During the whole frightening ride, I was debating whether I should get off in Westwood Village, which is always full of people, or continue on to my usual stop, which is always deserted. Seems like a pretty easy decision, but I didn’t want to give into my fear. The bus passed through Westwood, leaving behind my chance at escape, and my heart pounded harder. I hoped I hadn’t made a mistake.
About two miles outside of Westwood, my stop approached. I pushed the request button and walked to the front door to stand in the protection of the driver. I should have told him I was scared, but I was determined to be brave. I didn’t look behind me. The bus stopped and I walked quickly down the steps onto the quiet deserted street. I heard shuffling. Isturned my head slightly and saw that the terrifying guy had exited out the back door and followed me off the bus. He looked at me.
” I knew it. I fucking knew it”, I said out loud to myself. And I ran. I ran faster than I knew I could run. I ran until my throat was on fire and I couldn’t breathe. I ran until I was sure he couldn’t catch me.
I discovered two really important things from this experience: one is that I can still run pretty damn fast and the other is that I should always follow my instincts and get off the bus where I know it is safe.