I hadn’t realized I was so tired. I couldn’t even remember how long I had been on the train before falling asleep. That’s the problem with routines, they all sort of blend together. It wasn’t dark yet when I got on, but now it was nighttime. Clearly, it had been a while. I looked up casually, pretending to check which stop was next. He was still there, still staring.
There was no one else left on the car apart from the two of us, which was odd for this time of the day. Usually I’d be lucky to get a seat at all, nevermind have enough space to fall asleep without being smacked around with bags and purses and run over by strollers and wheelchairs. I made eye contact with him for all of a second. He was wearing a black suit and tie, with a white shirt. He looked about middle aged, and unusual only in how aggresively average he looked. If you were told to picture “well-dressed man,” he was probably the first image to pop into your head. I looked away, but could still feel his eyes fixed on me as he sat, leaning forward with his hands clasped together and elbows resting on his legs.
This was starting to feel weird, but thankfully we were only two stops away from my own. He bobbed back and forth as the train bumped its way down the tracks. I continued to pretend he wasn’t there at all. I’d seen plenty of strange things on the train before, and simply ignoring them is almost always the best approach, and it would be easy to focus on the music playing in my headphones for just one more stop. Or, it would have been, until he started talking to me.
I couldn’t hear him, but out of the corner of my eye I saw that his mouth was moving, with his eyes still locked on me. I very subtly pressed the volume down button on the side of my phone through my pants pocket until my music disappeared. It was a trick I employed often, keeping my headphones in but playing nothing, so I could easily feign ignorance of other people but still hear what’s going on. But this time it didn’t exactly go as planned. “I know you can hear me.”
I was so startled that I looked directly at him. Our eyes were fixed on each other’s, mine wide with shock, his relaxed and confident. “I believe this is your stop,” he said finally looking away from me for the first time as the name of my street was called out.
“Who are you?” I asked him, taking my headphones out of my ears now that I’d been caught. “How do you know where I live?”
The train came to a full stop. “Oh I’ve been following you for some time now. Haven’t you noticed?” He stood up and gestured toward the door as it opened.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never seen you before in my life,” I replied. But even as I said it, I knew it was a lie. I was remembering this man being on every train ride, sometimes sitting across from me, sometimes in other cars, even sometimes standing next to me. Memories that I didn’t have an hour ago. He’d somehow blended into my routine.
“Come on, let’s have a little chat.”