I saw the heroine of our story sitting on the BART. The train wasn't busy in the afternoon along the "anti-commute" line, so it was only a few of us spread out far and wide. She was thin but not skinny and wore one of those wispy skirts that always make me want to send God a fruit basket for inventing summer. The kind of woman my step-father would have gotten distracted by and then grudgingly called "a real looker."
But what is much more important that I noticed, because I'm all writerly and observant and shit like that, is that everything about her screamed "leave me alone." She had headphones jammed in her ears. Her nose was down in a book (my hand to God, I think it was Storm of Swords). She was pulled inward with body language that couldn't have been more clear if she had one of those shields from Dune...activated.
But still....he tried.
He sat right behind her—already a warning sign on such an empty train.
The real antagonist may have been society, but our personification of it was well cast. He had a sort of Christian Bale look about him, if Christian Bale were playing a role of a douchecanoe. Revisionist memory is always suspect, but I'm telling this story, and I'm going to stand by the fact that I thought he looked like a creepy guy long before he started acting like one.
He waited until the train was in motion to make his move—a true sign of someone who knows how to make the environment work to their advantage. Then he leaned forward. "Hi." "How you doing?" "What are you reading?" "What's your name?" "I really like your hair." "That's a really nice skirt." "You must work out."
It was painful to watch. She clearly wanted nothing to do with him, and he clearly wasn't going to take the hint. Her rebukes got firmer. "I'd like to read my book." And he pulled out the social pressure. "Hey, I'm just asking you a question. You don't have to be so rude." She started to look around for outs. Her head swiveled from one exit to another.
The thing was, I had already heard this story, many many times. I knew how it would play out. I knew all the tropes. I probably could have quoted the lines before they said them. I wanted a new narrative. Time to mix it up.
So I moved seats until I was sitting behind him. I leaned forward with my head on the back of his seat.
"Hi," I said with a little smile.
He looked at me like I was a little crazy—which isn't exactly untrue—and turned back to her.
"How are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm fine," he said flatly without ever looking back.
"I really like your hair," I said. "It looks soft."
That's about when it got.....weird.
He sort of half turned and glared back me, and I could tell I was pissing him off. His eyes told me to back the hell away, and his lips were pressed together tightly enough to drain the color from them completely.
But no good story ever ends with the conflict just defusing. He started to turn back to her.
"Wait, don't be like that," I said. "Lemmie just ask you one question..."
"What!" he said in that you-have-clearly-gone-too-far voice that is part of the freshmen year finals at the school of machismo.
And I'm not exactly a hundred percent sure why I didn't call it a day at that point, but.....maybe I just love turning the screw to see what happens. I gave him the bedroomy-est eyes I could muster. "What's your name?"
Right now I'm sitting here typing out this story, and I'm still not entirely sure why I'm not nursing a fat lip or a black eye. Because that obviously made him so mad that I still am not sure why it didn't come to blows. There are cliches about eyes flaring and rage behind someones eyes and shit like that that are so overdone. But it really does look like that. When someone gets violent, their eyes just kind of "pop" with intention—pupils dilate, eyelids widen. And his did. Even sitting down he was clearly bigger than me and I was pretty sure he was kind of muscular too, so at that moment I was figuring I was probably going to need an ice pack and sympathy sex from my girlfriend by day's end.
"DUDE," he shouted. "I'M NOT GAY."
That's when I dropped the bedroom eyes and switched to a normal voice. "Oh well I could see not being interested didn't matter to you when you were hitting on her, so I just thought that's how you rolled.
—Read the whole post here. (As ever, found via tumblr.)
As a woman who's been on that side of the story what this guy did is beyond awesome. Because street/public transport harassment sucks, especially if you're trapped.
If you haven't experienced it it's hard to explain how you feel in that situation, but telling someone to fuck off is most certainly not something you feel you can safely do. You can't ignore it, because they won't let you ignore them, so you move, look for the exits, consider plans in case the creep decides to follow you, and think about whether you reach for your phone in an inconspicuous enough way. And you wonder if the "security" rent-a-cops are likely to take your side or his if you report it.
But this story just made me smile a lot.
ETA: please don't share this post to any other kinja/gawker sites.