Trains were quieter at 2pm, just after the lunch rush, but before students escaped from school for the day. Two cars down held a mother with several noisy toddlers. Next car over had three commuters, engrossed in their phones.
This car, besides myself, enjoyed the silence of emptiness, until Aubin Grove cursed us with another passenger.
I did not care to know his name, nor desired any further acquaintance. Yet he insisted on sitting next to me--to me!--in the middle of an empty train car. No decent person did that. The rule was that if you were not the only person in a public space, it was up to you and everyone else to fill up the space as evenly as possible. Strangers did not cluster together.
He was not a decent person. He even manspread, as if he'd forgotten to dry his balls completely this morning after his shower and had to let them air out, lest they develop a nasty condition.
I gave him The Look. You know the one. We all communicate with strangers with The Look. Dude, you're in my space, my eyes said.
He knew what I was saying. He glanced at me, then looked away, clearly dismissing me.
I knew that cut. Men did it all the time. It was an admonishment, that if I didn't like what he was doing, then I could move.
No way. I was here first.
I leaned over. "Dude, you're sitting in Mike's spot." I looked around as if afraid of being overheard.
That got me another glance and a sneer. With my finger I began counting invisible spots on his shirtsleeve. "Mike doesn't like people sitting in his spot. That's why I sat here, to the side."
Now I got his full attention.
Four, five, six, I silently mouthed as I counted my way up his sleeve. He pulled his arm away, but I kept counting. It wasn't until I got to twelve, that I paused. "See, Mike sits there, Barney is on the other side." I pointed across the train. "Darren and Karen are over there, but they never argue, and Wilson keeps his own company over here." I gestured to my other side. "Anywhere else is safe to sit."
I resumed my counting of invisible dots on his sleeve. Even when he moved away, I leaned over until I reached twelve. Then I started again at one.
Sure enough, he got up and moved, not to another seat, but out of the car completely.
That's right, dude. My brand of crazy outranks your brand of assholery.
Her Grace can now go back to working on her novel.