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My Stalking Episode
The November 3 concert by the Jerusalem Trio at the Library of Congress started late due to some D.C. security snafu (which you can read about in the blog entry of 11/5/05). The point for my present purposes is we got out a little later than normal, and even fast walking only got me onto the platform at Union Station at about 10:20.
As I walked up to the end of the platform, to better position myself for egress via the north exit at Silver Spring, I passed a redheaded woman sitting on one of the benches. She was wearing a short coat and a short skirt that combined to display long, shapely legs. I noted this for my records, but otherwise proceeded heedless. The train came a couple minutes later, and I positioned myself at the door, but then it moved up the platform, meaning I had to reposition myself in order to keep my egress easy.
While walking up, I heard a voice behind me: “I hate it when it does that.” I always end up checking to see if that kind of comment to the air is directed towards me; turning around a little, I saw that the commenter was (as you’ve guessed) the redhead. Because she had come close up on my back and to my right as I faced down the platform, she was penned in between me and the train as we waited for the exiting passengers to clear the doors; because I like to do things like this when I think of it, I moved aside to let her go ahead. “Thank you,” she said, in a genuinely grateful tone. I nodded and smiled. We each found seats and began an uneventful ride home.
I had to walk towards her to get out at Silver Spring, which was why I noticed that she was getting out as well. We went down the same escalator and used the same exit. Then we both made a beeline for the stairs that lead up to the Silver Spring Metro Plaza. I was about five feet behind her.
By now, I was beginning to theorize about the possible vulnerability this woman might feel due to the fact that a young man (even one as semi-respectably dressed as I) was evidently tailing her, even though I was merely taking my normal route home. Although I know deep in my heart that I present about as much of a sexual threat to random female passersby as a turkey sandwich with mayo, I have somehow nevertheless convinced my limbic system that I seem to strangers of the fairer sex to be a rationality-free sexual predator, so that I must disguise myself for public consumption with the diffident behavior that is, in fact, my habit. Anyway, up the stairs we both went, she taking them two at a time with her long legs (she was probably a couple inches taller than me even without the heels), me taking them two at a time because that’s how I roll, neither of us expending any apparent effort.
After following her up the stairs, she bore right; I scurried left across the plaza, determined to extinguish any hint of wanton public lustfulness by veering as far away from her path as I could get. She crossed the plaza, walking more quickly than I, but turned left and began ascending the same Second Avenue hill that I walk up. By the time we were both ascending the hill, I had taken a shorter path to the same point, and she was about five feet in front of me again. “Dammit!” I thought. “I thought this was going to be simple.”
I crossed Second Avenue as soon as it was feasible. She crossed about fifty feet later, at the intersection. She had to pause to cross, and the delay ended up with her five feet in front of me again. Soon after she realized this (if, indeed, she realized it), she started half-jogging, in her heels, towards the corner of Second and Fenwick Lane. It was about twice as fast as she had been moving, and it did not look comfortable. Now I actually seemed to be inspiring some threatened feeling in the redhead. Why would she be doing this, other than in fear of me? Was the threat magnified in both our minds by our previous brief encounter? And was this not, in point of fact, ending up a little like those times when I used to wait for girls I liked outside our common classrooms, waiting for them to emerge so I could assault them with some cynical witticism about the pedagogy we had just endured? Because they always managed to get away pretty quickly too.
I cut across the parking lot at the corner as I normally do, thinking “I’m not going out of my way for this,” but knowing that — once again! — this path gave me a much shorter distance to cover if we were headed for the same point. And, seemingly inevitably, she crossed over to the other side of Fenwick and began walking up towards my apartment building (hers? I wondered now). I jaywalked in the middle of the block as I normally do, and my more efficient route meant that her picking up the pace had accomplished nothing: here I was, five feet behind her again.
Finally, I started walking really slowly, and she was soon way more than five feet in front of me. She went down Fenwick past First Avenue, where thankfully I always make a left. I took my final few steps home full of an odd mixture of relief, self-admonishment, and regret.
What did this encounter teach me? I probably should have walked slower from the beginning, except that I was so tired I was worried that I would fall over if I didn’t keep up my momentum. Taking a different route home seemed ill-advised for similar reasons. I could have said something to indicate simultaneously that I recognized the oddity of the situation and that I was not a sexual predator, except that it’s hard to think of statements that actually accomplish that in the moment. (“Say! This is a coincidence!”) The fact that she was attractive probably would have complicated the creative process (“Yes, you do have nice legs, but that does not mean that I want to have sex with you. I mean, right now. Unless you want to!”).
I wonder if we’d recognize each other if we actually do live in the same area and see each other again, perhaps on the Metro platform. That would be awkward!
“Hey! Did I see you walking home from the Metro one time?”
“Did you think I was stalking you or something?”
“Because really I’m not the stalking type. I was just walking back to my apartment building, which I guess is near your home.”
“I mean, I guess from the fact that you were walking around towards my apartment building.”
“Please stop talking to me.”
“I’m not a stalker.”
“I have Mace.”
“You don’t need Mace to stop me from doing anything! Because I’m not a stalker.”
“I’ll walk away now.”
“See? I’m walking away. You don’t need to reach in your purse for anything.”
The moral of this story is: I am not good with women. Or particularly persistent at stalking. Those two cancel each other out, right?
All this tasty writing ©2002-11 by Andrew Lindemann Malone. All rights reserved.