I have had many strange encounters riding the bus over the years. 90% of these take place at night. While sometimes it’s creepy and frightening, most of the time it’s entertaining. Often the people are men, and these men are often drunk. I can remember seeing strange men on the bus since I started taking Vancouver transit when I was thirteen.
When I was that age, my only confidence was from the self-defense and rape-awareness class I had taken in school. The moral of the story was that being quiet and polite to these men when they approach you would encourage them. However, being mean and telling them to get lost can set them off and you put yourself at risk of attack. The woman teaching us liked to use the ultimatum: You will either end up In the truck, or Under the truck.
The solution was the look them dead in the eye and use sentences starting with “I” like, “I don’t want to talk to you”, “I would like it if you stopped staring at me”, etc.
This stuck with me and every time a drunken guy comes up to me to chat while I’m waiting at the bus exchange, I would assertively tell him “I don’t want to talk right now”. Sometimes this would work, but more often it would just spark a conversation.
Last night while I was sitting on the bus to go home, a young man of about twenty-five stumbled into the seat next to me nearly sitting on my lap. I had my headphones on and ignored him. I could smell the alcohol on his breath. There were many empty pairs of seats on the bus, but he chose to sit next to me. I could see him looking at me with my peripheral vision (because I’m so sneaky) but refused to acknowledge him.
The bus started moving, and he turned to me and said something. I pretended to not hear or see him, thinking he would leave me alone. I was tired from a long day at a film festival followed by a housewarming party, and it was one o’clock in the morning.
He proceeded to poke my arm in order to get my attention.
I took out my headphones, turned to him, and said, “Can I help you?”
“Hey, I just wanted to chat,” he said.
“Why do you want to talk to me?”
“Because you’re a, a, you’re cute and I feel like talking.”
“I don’t want to talk tonight” I tried to keep the smile off my face. He was so drunk and earnest; I could tell he had no creepy intentions. I still didn’t feel like talking.
For some reason, some men think that insulting a girl will get her attention and make her interested. This was the method the guy attempted next, but couldn’t quite pull off.
“I just thought you weren’t some stuck up b*tch who I could have a conversation with. I’m not trying to say you’re a b*tch though.”
I saw my opportunity for an out.
“You can say it if you want.”
He went for it.
“Ok, you’re a b*tch”
I subsequently reached for my headphones and put them back on.
“Then you shouldn’t talk to me.”
Poor guy, I was being a b*tch. I was only doing it because I couldn’t be bothered to amuse some drunken guy on his ride home! I was enjoying the Bassnectar playlist I had put together for the ride home, and wanted to zone out.
I could see through my peripherals (again) that he was trying to say something to me. I tried to ignore him, but he got to me and I couldn’t fight back the smile this time. It seems I had really played the part of being insulted well.
Off come the headphones. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I’m sorry, I never should have called you a b*tch. I wouldn’t even call my ex-girlfriend that.”
“Well, I do sometimes in bed because she likes that kind of stuff…” his voice trailed off.
“You still sleep with your ex-girlfriend?”
He is taken aback. He didn’t notice his phrasing.
“What? No, that would be impossible anyway because she’s in Germany.”
“I see,” and I was about to put my headphones back on.
“Please talk to me? I just want to talk because I’m bored and you look boring.”
Wait a minute. “I looked boring? Then why talk to me?”
“No that’s not what I said. I mean you look bored. I could talk to that guy over there but he’s playing on his phone and doesn’t give a shit. But you are really hot and bored so I thought I would talk to you.”
“Ok, thanks. I think.” I go for the headphones-
“Will you please just entertain me for the bus ride?”
I sigh. I’m no longer tired, and this guy is so persistent…
“Ok, I’ll talk to you”
He proceeds to pump his fist and yell a loud, “Yes!”
Other people sitting behind us on the bus snicker, and I go a little red. Damn it, I just gave in! I’m so weak!
Oh well, it’s just a conversation.
So we talked. He asked me many questions, starting with my name. He then tried to guess what I did that night and guessed wrong about five times before giving up and asking. He asked me what was in my purse.
“Just some personal effects.”
He asks me to show him, but I refuse.
“Because it’s over the line. I don’t see why I should show a stranger what’s inside my bag.”
“Oh, you have a line? Where is this line?”
“Between the public and private. You have one too, but it’s blurred because you’re drunk.”
“I’m not that drunk… And I don’t have a line.”
“Ok, so tell me about your ex-girlfriend in Germany.”
“What? Well, I guess I do have a line,” he said.
“Yes, we all have baggage we don’t like to share. Mine happens to be a purse.”
He started asking me a string of random questions. What do I do? What did I study? What kind of things do I like? He then asked me if I have tried bondage.
“I’m not telling you that.”
“Because it’s inside the bag. Over the line” I said.
“I have never tried it. Well, maybe kind of. Not really…” he mused.
I stayed silent and hoped he would change the topic.
“So what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?” he asked.
I knew the answer. I wondered if I should share the story, and decided it couldn’t hurt. It was nothing I was ashamed of.
“I dated a boy I met on the Internet for a year when I was 14. He moved to Vancouver six months in, and turned out to be a compulsive liar. He threatened to kill himself if I didn’t stop talking to my family.” I replied.
(I’ll share the full story another time.)
“Wow, do you regret it?” he was looking at me with deep interest.
“No. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from it.”
“What was the biggest lesson you learned?”
“To listen to the people who care about you, especially if they are all telling you the same thing.”
At this point, I thought I had shared enough. I had become very interested in this guy and what had led him into having this conversation with me. Why did he want to know the details of a stranger’s stories of sex and love?
“So what is your story?” I asked.
“What do you mean? You want my life story?” he laughed.
“No, but why don’t you tell me about the girl from Germany, or what you did tonight?”
“Well I got home from work, and was really bored. I ate some noodles-”
“Kim-Chi?” I asked.
“What? You’re so racist!” He exclaimed.
“No I’m not! You said you’re a student, and students live off of Kim-Chi noodles!”
“Oh, right. Well, my mom made me real noodles. Not that fake shit…. So I was bored and I called up my friend but he was in the hospital. Can you believe it? In the hospital! So then I called my other friend and he wanted to chill. He asked me to come to Commercial Drive and so I did. He talked about his problems the entire time and I drank, and drank, and drank. Then I got on the bus to go home and here I am.” He laughed and lurched forward as the bus slowed for a traffic light.
“Ok, so I am a bit drunk” he admitted.
“So you got on the bus and now you want me to talk about myself? Aren’t you tired of hearing people talk about themselves?”
“I don’t know. I like talking to people. Tell me something else about yourself.”
“Why don’t you tell me the story of your girlfriend from Germany.”
“Is she German?”
“Well yea, of course!” His eyes gaze upward and he thinks silently.
“Where did you meet?” I pressed.
He smiled down at his hands.
“She was a dishwasher at the restaurant I worked at. My boss was a Vietnamese guy who would say yes to everything, so I asked him to get her the job so I could talk to her. We had met a month before but she was living on the island with her boyfriend. Eventually we started talking and she asked me to hang out. So we started meeting outside of work and we would smoke up together. One day, I kissed her. Then I took her back to my house, and I banged her.”
He laughed and looked at me… clearly proud of himself.
“So then you two were together after that?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.
“How long until she moved back to Germany?”
“About a month. It was super intense.”
“So why did you bother having a relationship with her if you knew she was moving back so soon?”
“I don’t know. It was crazy. I was crazy about her.”
“So did she end it when she moved back?”
“No. She wanted to keep dating long-distance. I even went over to see her. Amsterdam has some beautiful women by the way.”
I listened silently.
“I broke up with her about a month ago. She wasn’t very happy with me. In fact, I think she hates me now. But it’s not like I didn’t want to be with her. She didn’t understand how hard it was for me to be hanging on when she wasn’t going to be coming back again.”
The bus was coming to his stop.
“It’s too bad you couldn’t make things work out. Do you keep in touch?” I asked.
“Yea, we chat every couple of weeks.” He said, shrugging his shoulders.
I wanted to tell him that it was okay. That I have also been in a similar situation, and just because it doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean you failed.
From his interest in my stories and reluctance to discuss the girl from Germany, I could tell he was hurt, and unsure if he made the right decision. He was looking for similar stories in others that would justify his decision to protect himself from pain by ending an undesirable situation: the long-distance relationship.
The fact that he continued to talk with her gave me mixed emotions. I think that it’s good he didn’t try to cut her out of his life because the relationship couldn’t be what he wanted. At the same time, I wonder if it’s cruel to keep talking with a girl who has feelings for him and keep her hanging on. At least he is facing his feelings for her and being honest instead of cutting her out and keeping his pain to himself.
The bus was slowing down and people were moving toward the doors. I stayed seated while he picked up his umbrella.
“Well I like you. You’re cool. Can I have your number?” he asked.
“I’m not giving you my number.” I said.
“Come on, give me your number” he persisted.
“Sorry, but I already gave in to having a conversation with you, I’m not giving you my number as well” I laughed.
I wondered what might happen if I gave him my number. He would call me I guess. I suppose it wouldn’t be the worst thing either. However, I wasn’t ready to start a friendship with this guy. He clearly needed to sort out his feelings about the girl from Germany, and I wasn’t the person to do it with.
We had entertained each other for thirty minutes on a rainy night, and that was where our relationship would end. I could tell he understood.
He smiled at me and said, “Okay. Goodbye”
“Have a good night.” I said, even though it was already morning.