I was on my way home from a friend’s show last week. It was Friday night around midnight. I walked along Belmont to the red line; people were hanging out in groups, doin’ some hollerin’, being loud. I got on the train and pulled out my book – feeling a little funny to be out in public reading late on a Friday. At the next stop a guy got on and sat across from me. There was an announcement over the speakers, and the man started saying something to me. I didn’t catch it. He stared at me as we went from stop to stop.
He was young, about my age. Six-foot, broad shouldered, muscled. Wearing a gray sweatshirt, gym shoes, sweat pants, carrying a gym bag. He could’ve been a college student, maybe a shooting guard.
I put my bookmark in between the pages as I prepared to get off. When I did, he leapt up, ready to exit. We got onto the platform, and he strode, fast, out in front of me. We descended onto the street.
There were plenty of people around. That stop seems never to be deserted. He kept walking quickly in front of me, making backwards glances at the people he passed. At Albion I turned left, cutting across some grass to make my way quicker. He made a sudden left turn and put himself still in front of me.
It was obvious, at that point, that he was altering his route to stay with me. He was walking so briskly that I decided it would be fine to just slow down and let him get a ways ahead of me. As I slowed down, he slowed down. I slowed down to a grandma’s pace and then to a tourist’s pace and then to a tourist talking to her friend’s pace (which, I assure you, is ridiculously ridiculously slow). He stopped. And started coughing into his arm until I caught up with him.
He was about four feet away from me, walking slightly in front, taking glances back over his shoulder. I didn’t know what was going on, but something was definitely going on. I got out my phone to call Mitch – I don’t know what I was going to say if he answered… “A man is being very stupid about pretending not to follow me, please help.” But I at least showed him I had a phone and that it was a crappy phone so there was no sense in robbing me. And maybe I thought it’d be good to let him know that I had someone to call, that I know people.
Mitch didn’t pick up. I was coming up to the alley along the train tracks that I turn on to get home. I didn’t see anybody walking on it. If I turned there, nobody would be able to see me or him.
At the last second I stopped; the man kept walking straight and turned his head to watch me as he walked under the bridge holding up the tracks. As soon as he was out of sight, I turned up the alley and ran all the way to my house.
I got there and felt pumped up by adrenaline. When I kept pacing around, Mitch asked what was the matter, and I told him. Life growing up in Colorado Springs was too insulated for this. The most exposure I got was being approached by homeless people for money, and the most excitement was (maybe) getting asked to prom. Now I live in Chicago, and it’s crazy: good-looking men try to follow me home.