The Man Sitting Behind You Is a Serial Rapist
Of course I turned around.
And there, indeed, was a man. Eating alone: Bald spot. Hunched
shoulders. Plaid shirt against a pleather chair back. Sweet and sour
sauce and spring rolls or something. Looked like my dad, from the back.
There were things I wanted to know. Was there even a cosmic possibility
that this old egg behind me was actually a serial rapist, or did asking
the question make me insane? Who wrote this fortune, and under what
conditions? Where could I get more of these cookies?
The flipside: Your lucky numbers are
The paper omen curled around my finger like a tapeworm. There on my
side dish: the broken cookie, stale and unappetizing. My companion
refused to break his own cookie and share his fortune. He stuffed it,
still in its cellophane wrapper, into his pocket to enjoy later, alone.
Just another reason why I hated him, had to end things with him
post-haste. But not that night. That night I may or may not have been
sitting back-to-back with a serial rapist.
The restaurant staff was glassy-eyed, stumbling around, mopping tables
and balancing plates of food on their forearms in an opiate haze. Yet
they also seemed to be watching me. Waiting for my reaction. Their eyes
slid around in their sockets like closed-circuit cameras.
And there I was when the possible rapist stood and began to pay his
bill, all in loose change. Did I mention that he could have been my
dad? Because this paying in change reminded me very much of my father.
But he wasn't, thank God. No, he was a bumbler. The little oh! he let
out when he fumbled his change, when it all rolled under my seat like
tiny wheels: how cute.
Then the awkward moment.
I don't enjoy giving up my subway seat for the elderly. I seethe when I
see an old woman clawing her way onto a full streetcar. Aggressive
beggars force me to pretend they're invisible. If someone's slightly
too far behind me while I'm on my way into a building I don't stand
there like an idiot in the breeze, holding the door. People only care
about themselves. Get used to it. But a rapist reaching under my chair
for his dropped change. A possible rapist.
reached under the chair. I
plucked the coins off the carpet. "Here you go," I
said. I plunked them into his hand. One after another. I locked my gaze
on the dull plaid of his shirt. I looked at his hand.
But then I looked up.
His eyes were puddles. His face was a doll's: the kind made out of
stuffed nylons. His expression — this was the worst
— was like he was terrified, his puddles wide and murky and
glistening. He said something I didn't catch. Then he left.
That expression. What was that for? And that broken cookie he left
behind: what do you think was inside?
Bess Winter is an MFA-fiction candidate at Bowling Green State
University and Special Projects Editor of the Mid-American Review.
She has work in or coming from Adbusters, Pindeldyboz,
JMWW and others.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201002man.htm
Detail of photo on main page courtesy of
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