It has come to my attention, brought to me by coworkers (normally females because there is no intention involved) and some customers at the store, that my physique attracts attention. As I had been previously a person with class 1 obesity, I am still unused to such reactions but do not hold much stock in it. I look good for me. No one else.
That said, it was a bus ride that brought that point further to the surface.
I normally take one route that can take me all the way to DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) and as I have quite a bit I like doing down that way, sometimes I stay on the bus almost all the way to the end of the line. It was several stops before my intended stop when I went to the front of the bus to ask the driver a question. By that time, I was the last one on the bus. He was an older man, probably in his 60s, white-haired and portly. Greeting me warmly, as if he were happy to see me, he had the handshake that becomes readily uncomfortable after the first five seconds, though the shake lasted for 10. After extracting my hand, I asked him if the bus came back on a different street.
“I’m nearly at the end of the line. If you want, you can stay on and I’ll show you where I come back. It’s right around the corner.”
Thinking nothing of it, I agreed and we went to the end of the line. It was in those five minutes to the end of the line, however, that this was going to get weird very quickly.
He introduced himself as Rafael and commented on how we were neighbors. I looked at him, wondering what he meant, and he went on to explain that he lived right next to Such-and-Such Mart and that he had seen me walk by there often.
“You always get off at Telegraph,” he remarked. “What do you do out there?”
Red lights couldn’t have been flashing brightly enough. And I had absolutely no recollection of ever having seen this man before in my life. Though to be fair, I hardly ever look at my bus drivers.
He went on to comment about an ex-girlfriend he had who was Japanese.
Oh Lord have mercy…really?
As I was planning exit strategies and methods of attack, the bus was on its way again on route. With passengers on the bus, I relaxed a little. I got off quickly at my stop and never turned back, even through the pleading I could hear in his words.
Since then, I had not been on a bus that he was driving. But I had since found out that he was not lying about living nearby.
I was walking back from the DMV, picking up some motorcycle handbooks and when I got to one corner, a red car drove up and parked in a parking lot on that corner.
It was that bus driver. In his personal car.
“Where are you going?”
“That way,” at a loss at whatever else to say.
“Here, get in!” I saw him throwing stuff in his front seat to the back.
“No, that’s alright. I’ll walk!” and kept walking. I saw him drive by, having realized that I wasn’t going to go with him, and as soon as he was far enough, I doubled back and took a different route home.
I know the reactions that people, especially women, will have. I know what people will say. But I am not about to change my routine. I have no intention of changing and using fear as an excuse. And if it comes down to it, I will fight. I write this because in this country, Fear’s hand is one that is easily accepted.
Fear: I do not need you. I can find my own damn way.