Your beige sweater is well-worn, with gaping holes where they shouldn’t be. Judging by the coloration and style, I’d say it’s older than I am. Perhaps that’s why you’re stumbling toward us. Your hair is rather matted and unkempt, the look on your face is even wilder.
We lock eyes for a moment and you smile knowingly. Target-fixed, you trip on your feet to get to my friends and I.
I hold my breath and brace myself for the worst. These aren’t the encounters I hope for while stranded on the platform. Other people are huddled in the pale light, but they neglect to interfere. It must not be their place. You walk into the light, now fully illuminated in your tumultuous glory. You want to know where my friend is from. Northern California.
You knew it. It had to be that or Texas.
You comment on her tights. I avoid looking at you. She tries to edge away, but you persist. I still hold my breath, tighten my fists and the muscles in my stomach involuntarily. It’s almost like during those thriller movies when you know something bad is about to happen.
Your alcohol-laden spittle is fired off in many directions — one direction being mine. You regale us with your stories of others from warmer climes and your time in San Francisco. You terrify me, you’re taller and probably stronger than we are. You have the jaunty look of being out of control. But at the same time, I want to know why. Why are you here now, in a hazy stupor, stumbling after a group of college girls?
Your sticky, snot-encrusted moustache makes its way dangerously close to my face. It puts me at risk of getting stuck, drawn in with the scent of alcohol.
You followed as we tried to evade your dizzy gaze. Now, waiting on the other side of the tracks for the purple line which refuses to arrive. Shifting from foot to foot, I try to stay warm, but also try to stay a few steps away.
You ask her where she lives. I clinch my teeth as she answers “Evanston.”
Surely you’ll follow us home.
You respond “Oh, so you’re going north.”
You’re going to Wilson. We tell you you’re on the wrong side of the tracks. I breathe for the first time. Hopefully you don’t notice my massive exhale. That’s all it took? You oblige and enlist the help of a CTA worker to find your destination up the stairs. In a zig-zag manner, you leave us, cold and still waiting on the platform.