Mister Nice Guy

I shouldn’t be scared.
It’s the middle of the day;
I’m surrounded by people.

But there’s two men
On this train
That make my hair stand on end
And the thing is,
You just can’t really trust people.
You just never know.

Man number one
Is stood to my left on the platform,
As I absentmindedly sway
To Frank Sinatra’s voice
In my headphones.

I keep catching his gaze
Out of the corner of my eye.
My peripheral vision is 20/20.
He’s close enough
That I can smell him-
Stale cologne and booze
And fear.
No wait,
That last one is me.

I look straight ahead
Because this is the type of man
I am used to.
This stranger
With his extra-large eyes
And overstated sneer,
His nearly imperceptible nod
Is familiar to me.
I know him;
I’ve met dozens of his comrades.

But now there’s another.
Man number two comes rushing past
And smiles at me-
Which doesn’t happen much
In this part of the world.

I don’t often get smiles from strangers
In Britain.
He stands to my right
Eating an apple.

He’s too far away
For me to see him properly
So I think
Maybe he’s just friendly
And focus my attention
On the first.

The train arrives
And as usual
There is the mad dash to reach the doors
As if we’re gladiators
Killing each other for seats
When half the time
We end up standing anyways.

I let man number one go ahead of me.
This is a strategy I’ve honed over time.
Now, he knows I’ve seen him.
I’ve acknowledged his presence
In a friendly way
And I get to see where he’s sitting.

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But man number two
Is next to me now
And he smiles,
Again,
And waves his hand to let me go ahead.
I say thank you.

Now I’ve lost the first man
And in the mad rush
I take the first seat I see.
As the throng clears
I realize he’s sat across from me.
I locate man number two on my left,
Turn up my music.
I am trapped.

Man one says something.
I pretend not to hear and stare at a spot on the floor.
He puts on his mirrored sunglasses
And I pretend not to know
It’s just an excuse
To outright stare.

Man two has his back to me.
He must just be friendly,
But that’s what frightens me the most.

The friendly ones
Are scariest
Because of their changeability.
They hold doors
And buy drinks
And smile
And then turn on you
When you don’t want to fuck them
As if you’re a machine
They can put niceness into
Until sex falls out.

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At least the creepy ones
Are just creepy.
You know what you’re getting into.

Man number one
Says something else
As he gets up to stand by the doors.
I ignore him.
He winks as he exits the train.
I breathe.
One down.

Man number two
Turns around
And makes eye contact.
I mentally kick myself for looking,
Turn away.
Stare straight ahead
Until I reach my stop.
Stand by the doors
As we pull into the station.

Someone stands beside me.
It’s him.
Fuck.
He smiles at me again.
That’s three-
And my blood runs cold.
I half smile back.
I don’t know
If this is really his stop
Or if he’s following me
And as the doors open,
He waves me to go ahead.

I walk down the stairs,
Make my way towards home.
He’s behind me-
I hear his bag rustling,
His footsteps.
He’s a good foot taller than me,
And should be taking longer strides.
He should have overtaken me
By now.

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I glance behind me,
Check for cars.
As soon as they pass I dart across the street.
I stand behind a truck and watch him stop for a moment,
Look around,
And then continue walking
He turns the corner
Going the other direction.

I walk again,
Hyper-aware
Of men driving work trucks,
Men painting fences,
Men carrying shopping bags,
Men smoking cigarettes.

I stand straight,
Put on my bitchface
And stride past them all.
I aim for fearless,
But the little girl inside me
Is crouched down in the corner of my psyche.

I reach home
And lock the door behind me.
I go into every room,
Checking for intruders,
Before I can relax.

I still don’t know
If that man was following me.
Maybe he was just nice,
But maybe not.
And I’m thankful
That’s a fact
I’ll never know.

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