I’ve been making a lot of friends lately, you guys!
Admittedly, some of them are more welcome than others.
My last post was about Darius, my Anonymous Friend #1. I have not seen Darius since our surreal/wonderful run-in, which has been both a relief and a disappointment.
I made my Anonymous Friend #2 last Friday, when I was on my way to Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art (yes, in some ways I am cooler than you).
I was walking to my bus stop near my apartment and an older gentleman said hello to me. Nothing unusual about this; I am “greeted” (often harassed) by older men every day (which is a topic for another, more strongly worded post).
“Hello young lady, how are you? You are looking very beautiful today,” the man said, stepping back to make way for me on the sidewalk.
I was in a really good mood because it was Friday and I was on my way to a picnic in a garden, so instead of politely smiling and nodding, I engaged him.
Please note this as Mistake # 1.
“I’m doing very well, thank you! And you?”
He was doing great, as you can imagine. I did that thing where I tried to finish the exchange on the go, where you keep walking and talking until your neck is so craned that you can either turn around and stop, walk backwards or just end it and keep walking. Thank you, that’s great, you’re great, goodbye!
I kept walking, crossed the street to my bus stop and pulled out my phone to check how much longer until my bus came. When I looked up from my phone, I saw the man jaywalking across the street toward me.
“I don’t mean to disturb you, but do you know how much longer until the bus comes? I’m not following you, I promise, I just need to know because the bus is my only form of transportation. Am I bothering you?”
After a beat I waved my hand limp and sang, “Nooooo, you’re not bothering me! The bus comes in 2 minutes.”
…Mistake # 2.
Long story short, he boarded the bus and kept talking to me. He was sitting across the aisle at first, but then asked if he could sit next to me. I SAID YES. WHY? For a few reasons, I think:
1. I care what people think of me to a fault. I didn’t want him to think I was rude, even though he was obviously being a big ol’ creeper.
2. I’m on a personal quest to make anonymous friends, obviously.
3. I’m an idiot.
Unfortunately, my destination was at the very end of the line. And I told him this. (Please see # 3 above).
So we talked and had a fairly amiable conversation. The only extremely uncomfortable moments for me were when he told me:
1. How beautiful I am. After the sixth time I said “Haha, OK…you can stop now.”
2. That when he lived in Germany he had four wives. At the same time. And then he said “If only you could be my wife!” Instead of screaming “GET AWAY FROM ME” I laughed nervously and said “I don’t think my boyfriend would like that very much.” ?????????
3. That he promised to “behave himself” because he didn’t want a criminal record. He had made mistakes in the past and wanted to be “right with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” I thanked him and looked out the window with a silent scream on my face.
Too many mistakes to count at this point.
He got off at the last stop with me and walked me a few blocks, nodding excessively to the police officers we passed. They just frowned, looking back and forth between the two of us. Part of me was offended, thinking the cops insensitive and close-minded, but most of me was praying one of them would ask me if I was OK.
None of them did. I guess I looked like I had things under control. But looking back on the encounter, I had very little control. I don’t want to be paranoid to a fault, but I realize now just how naive and stupid I was being. He kept pointing down side streets, suggesting that we take those instead of Pennsylvania Avenue. For all I know, he could have pushed me into an alleyway and attacked me. At least I had the sense to stay on the main drag.
When we got close to the garden, I told him that it was time to say goodbye. We shook hands and he thanked me very graciously for my company. I turned to walk away and heard him say these words, which now echo ominously in my head: “I know which bus stop to find you at!”
Since then I haven’t seen him, probably because I’ve been avoiding the bus stop.
In better news, I made Anonymous Friend # 3 today, and she seems like someone I might actually want to see again!
I met her on my way home from work. She was street fundraising for Planned Parenthood, with whom she volunteers during the summer. I usually just walk by people with clipboards on the street, but today was a sunny, breezy kind of day, I had accomplished a lot at work and I was in a friendly mood.
So I stopped and decided to donate some money. As I was filling out the form, we started chatting about women’s rights. I told her I had recently moved from Houston and she gave a rare and wonderful response: “Oh, that’s a pretty progressive city, isn’t it?”
That’s when I decided we should be friends. Usually when I tell someone in D.C. that I’m from Texas, the corners of their mouth immediately turn down into a knowing grimace. “Oooo…you must be glad to be here!” or “Is it really as bad as I hear?”
Instead of saying “YOU DON’T KNOW ME. OUR MAYOR IS A LESBIAN AND KICKS ASS. WE’RE THE FOURTH LARGEST CITY IN THE COUNTRY. SHUTUP,” I usually just smile and say “Actually, Houston is a very progressive city.”
So after I finished filling out the form, I said, “I don’t mean to be creepy, but if you’d ever like to get a beer or hang out, just call my number on the form.”
She was thrilled! She invited me to game night at her apartment this Friday and I got that bubbly, giddy feeling inside that I get when I make new friends.
Let’s just hope she doesn’t pull me aside from Monopoly to tell me, with no ill intentions, how beautiful I look tonight.