Photo courtesy Creative Commons
They had to be wrong. People were always telling me how unsafe it was in Chicago.
Here I was, my early 20’s, standing on an El platform. Everything was fine.
I was going home by myself. I was safe. No one was bothering me. I did see a guy standing on the platform, but I was fine.
A moment later that man came by me, opening the door where I was standing at the top of the stairs. His voice low. His question to the point,
“Do you want some of this?”
In his hand was a joint. So that’s why they called it a funny cigarette. It did look like one.
I squirmed inside myself. My voice cracked a little as I replied, “No, thank you.”
No use being impolite, right?
Okay, so maybe I felt a little less safe. Still I breathed in and out. Before long, my train would be there. I’d simply get on, ride one stop and get off to catch my bus home. It was okay. I was fine.
But before I could finish convincing myself, the black man in the shabby attire was back. The man with the joint.
He spoke again. “Do you want some of this?”
I looked over to see what he was holding. I couldn’t make it out right away. I mean it was dark outside. Then it registered; he was holding himself.
So, this was what it’s like to have someone expose themselves. I froze.
And then I did a stupid thing. Fear does that to you sometimes.
Instead of running downstairs, where more people were, I ran out on the platform. The almost empty platform.
No sooner had I arrived there when I saw a shadow coming around the bench. He was back.
My heart beat faster. I ran towards another man. True he was a stranger, but I had few options.
“You gotta help me,” I panted, “there’s this guy and he’s after me.”
Surely he’d be able to tell I was sincere. Right?
Looking right past me he paused and said, “I don’t see anyone.”
Great! They were in cahoots!
Without skipping a beat he continued, “Listen, if you like, I can give you a ride; my car is parked right downstairs.”
I wondered if I wore a sign that read, I’m stupid. I believe anything
Pretending I believed him, I simply replied, “No thank you, I just need you to keep him away from me.”
Just then the train appeared. The door opened and I got on, followed by the guy who offered me a ride. Then the door closed. Whew!
I opted to stand by the door since I was getting off soon. And when the door opened, I flew down the stairs and to the bus stop.
Forty minutes later, I walked in to hear my dad ask, “Are you hungry? I made Italian saus…”
“No thank you.” I said, walking in my room and closing the door. There was no reason to share my day. No reason at all.
And what a day it had been. I was offered my first joint. I met an exhibitionist. All in one day.
I heaved a big sigh. Tomorrow had to be better.