[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
[ed. note: sometimes i write pieces that i hesitate to post. sometimes it’s because i’m not sure what you’ll think. other times, it’s because i don’t want anyone to feel obligated to post a comment. and, still other times, it’s because i’ve written something that is total crap. at any rate, today's post is one of those that gave me pause.]
friday night was snowy, and, given the fact that it was supposed to be even snowier than it turned out to be, i probably should have gone straight home after work and hunkered down just in case.
instead, i brave the snow and the sleet and the wind to meet up with a few friends for drinks. it’s been a long week, and i need a happy hour. it isn’t one of those happy hours that turns into an all-nighter. just a few drinks. a quick bite to eat. and i say my good-byes to my friends and make my way through the snow to catch the first red line headed for the suburbs.
the train isn’t too crowded. i guess on a friday evening, most people are heading into the city, not out to the suburbs. i notice two other riders in my car – a man and woman, both about my age, both sitting nearby, but traveling separately. about four stops from the end of the line, my cell phone rings.
as i chat with my friend, i hear a voice from the seat behind me. the voice is loud and deep, but startles me mostly because there hadn’t been anyone in that seat a few moments ago.
“it’s really starting to snow, isn’t it?”
i realize that he is talking to me. i turn my head to the right in an effort to let him see that i’m talking on the phone, look at him and nodd in agreement while still talking to my friend.
by the time i turn around to face forward again, he is sitting next to me.
he is tall. although i’m bad with weights and measures, i’d say he is 6’3”. early forties. he is wearing a green and white nike jacket. boots. no gloves. his eyes are very pale blue. he smells faintly antiseptic, like bay rum or listerine.
he is talking to me.
“yeah, it’s really coming down. they say we might get six inches. i know a lot of people don’t really like cold weather, but i do. and i like snow, the more the better.”
i continue talking on my cell phone, thinking he still hasn’t realized the intrusion. i raise my voice slightly, in case he hasn’t heard me talking.
“i don’t really think we’ll get six inches, though. they’re usually wrong about these things.”
my phone conversation ends, and as soon as i turn off my phone, his hand is outstretched.
“hi there, my name’s john.”
this isn’t the first time in my life a man i don’t know has struck up a conversation with me. not the first time a stranger has introduced himself. it’s a fairly common human phenomenon.
and, so, i offer my hand.
maybe it’s the way he is staring at me. maybe it’s the way he holds my hand a little too tightly. i don’t know.
“hi, john. my name is sarah.”
he won’t let go of my hand.
i have a bad feeling.
from the minute she met rob, something seemed off to her. but, you have to give people a chance. sort of like when you buy a new album. sometimes you just have to listen to it a few times before you know if you really like it or not.
it was supposed to be girls only. girls’ night out. they were celebrating her divorce and her girlfriend’s new job.
a friend of a friend met up with them at some point during the evening, but, in a clear violation of the rules, she had her new boyfriend in tow. his name was rob. he seemed flirty, but in a forced, used car salesman kind of way.
the details were unknown to her that night, but, later, she pieced it all together.
they had all had too much to drink. she wanted to go home. her girlfriends wanted to stay out. he told them he’d take her home. happy to. it was on his way home. no problem at all.
“don’t you worry,” he told them. “i’ll make sure no creeps hassle her.”
when she came back from the bathroom, her girlfriends had settled up and moved on to another bar, leaving her there with rob.
“it’s all been decided. i’m taking you home,” he said with a smile.
“you sure have pretty hands. nice and soft. and that’s a really pretty ring. your boyfriend give you that ring? i bet you have a boyfriend, a beautiful girl like you, you probably have a boyfriend, don’t you?”
i pull my hand away.
“yes, i do.”
“is he a big guy, your boyfriend? is he bigger than me? you think he could beat me up if i tried to take you?”
“he’s a big guy.”
“but is he fast, too? you think he could catch me if i ran? if i just grabbed you and ran…just took off with you, you think he could catch me?”
i stare at him.
“it’s hard to see because you’re all bundled up under there,” he says, leaning toward me, reaching for the collar of my coat, pulling it and craning his neck as if to look underneath.
“but i bet you’re not too big. just about right. i bet he couldn’t catch me.”
“i don’t know you, and i want you to stop touching me. stop right now.”
if she hadn’t been drunk, she would have woken up before he started touching her.
she would have noticed that he hadn’t taken her home. she would have noticed that rob had taken her to an empty house listed with his real estate agency. that he had pulled his car into the garage, making sure the passenger door was against the wall so she couldn’t get out.
“what the hell are you doing?”
it took her a minute to remember who he was. she looked around frantically, not recognizing her surroundings.
“oh my god! get off me!” she kicked him, slapping his face.
“you’re so fucking beautiful.”
“no, please, don’t do this. oh my god.”
i turn, looking out the window, trying to focus on what to do.
“oh my god.”
i turn to look at him. he is staring down.
“oh my god, those are the sexiest thing i’ve ever seen.”
i realize he is looking at my feet. more precisely, at my stockings. i had worn fishnet stockings to work.
“do those go all the way up? i gotta see if they go all the way up.”
and in an instant, he is reaching down and lifting the leg of my trousers.
i pull my leg away.
“i told you to stop touching me.”
“i’m sorry, i just couldn’t help it. those are so sexy. my god. i bet they go all the way up.”
“do not touch me.”
“i’m sorry, i’m sorry, just calm down. i didn’t mean to upset you.”
“now don’t get upset.”
she pushed her way past him, climbing across him and pushing the driver’s side door open.
she was disoriented. scared.
he caught up with her almost immediately.
two more stops to go.
he’s still talking to me. he’s asking me questions. what’s my boyfriend’s name? where do i live? i’m answering him. telling him lie after lie.
and all the while, i’m shaking. sweating. trying to figure out what to do next. should i get up and move? should i ask him to move? should i get off at the next stop, wait for the next train? what if i do something and it escalates? what if i make him angry and he has a knife?
if he grabs me, who will chase after him? how long would it be until someone begins to look for me? until someone misses me? what is it i’m supposed to yell? i think it’s “fire!” isn’t that it? i’m supposed to yell “fire” because people will come and help if they think there’s a fire. but no one comes if you scream “rape.”
“why do you keep screaming? i told you no one is here. no one is going to hear you. why don’t you just relax? i think if you just relax, you’ll enjoy this.”
he grabbed her hair and pushed her face first down onto the hood of the car.
she clawed at anything she could make contact with, her nails raking across the hood of the car like a chalkboard. she scratched him once on the arm, but he grabbed her arm and pinned it behind her.
“oh, i can do this one-handed if i have to. i’m going to fuck you and you can’t stop me.”
he pushed her skirt up and her panties aside. she could feel the cold metal of the car against her.
the bruise across her hipbones the next day was black and purple. the result of him slamming into her and her slamming into the car.
it was the only physical mark he left.
when it was over, he took her home. as he dropped her off, he told her he’d call the next day.
like they had just had dinner and a movie.
it was such a surreal experience that she couldn’t process it immediately. she went inside and ran the hottest bath she could. when the water got cold, she emptied it and ran another tub full of scalding water. she continued the ritual through the night.
she promised herself that she would never let it happen to her again.
“our next and final station stop is shady grove.”
and this is it. the end of the line.
he reaches over and pushes my hair out of my face.
“stop touching me! now!”
i can feel the tears coming.
“i’m sorry. i just wanted to push your hair back so i can see your beautiful face.”
“shady grove. doors opening right side.”
and the tears are dropping now. rolling down my face.
and he leans over and kisses me on the forehead.
“don’t you cry. i’ll see you later.”
and the doors slide open.
and he gets up and leaves. he stops once, just outside the doors and turns to me.
“i’ll see you later.”
and he begins to laugh as he walks away.
and i can hear it echoing through the station.
and i’m still sitting there, crying, listening to him laugh as he walks away.
wondering if he’ll be waiting for me.
wondering, if he keeps his promise to me, if i do see him again...what i will do, how far i will go to keep my promise to myself.
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