I walk past her and sit in the seat behind her and to her right, directly behind the seat that I’d been hoping to get. I’m still close enough to see her and get her attention so we’re still in the game.
I can’t sit right next to her. I just can’t. She has to have noticed me at the terminal these past 8 weeks so for me to suddenly sit with her then come out and point it out to her would be creep central. Besides, her stop is before me so if this goes south, she’ll be trapped against the window until I have to awkwardly get up and let her escape.
I’ve made the right choice. Now all I have to do is wait for everyone to sit down. Then, when the bus starts moving, I’ll lean in, get her attention, and, “I’ve seen you before…”
So I sit back, take a deep breath and notice that I’m sitting next to Mr. Hold Up the Line. He actually looks like a cool guy up close and has got some snazzy facial hair and some thick headphones hanging on his neck. Pretty soon we start making jokes to each other after a woman walks in and mutters, “What the &^%$ is that smell?” And suddenly me and this guy are best friends. But back to the mission.
I turn to the woman and to my horror, a man comes and plops down in the seat right next to her.
Are you freaking joking me?! Gimme a break here!
Now my view is completely blocked off. There’s no way of getting her attention without climbing over this guy—who just so happens to be bigger than me and this woman and the guy next to me put together. Is there no end to these inconveniences?
The bus starts moving and here I am staring at the side of this man’s head, fuming. All of this hard work. And it could end with nothing to show for it. I have no idea where this guy’s stop is so he could be getting off at the same time as the woman or long after. Either way, this is not good. This is not good at all. Everything is riding on him getting off before she does.
So I sit back and pray that he gets off soon and keep rehearsing in my head.
“I’ve seen you before. I take this bus often. How are you?”
The first stop comes up and a few people get off. But not the man. Then comes the second stop. And the third. And the fourth. And he still doesn’t get off. I notice he’s watching a lecture on Calculus theorems and I start calculating what trajectory my arm would have to follow in order to reach her without touching him. I steal a glance at her through the space between his headrest and the back of his head and almost scream at what I see.
This is a joke. This a sick joke.
Great. Now even if this guy leaves at the next stop, I’m gonna have to wake this woman up to talk to her.
No, Emmanuel. Under NO circumstances would that ever be okay.
But luckily, she opens her eyes again and starts scrolling through her phone.
We’re back in business.
A few stops later, the man finally gets off and my heart leaps out of my chest. Almost every seat within a seven-seat radius is now empty around us, parting the sea for this glorious encounter of the decade. This is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for.
I lean over the aisle to clear my throat and realize she’s got her headphones in. So I reach over, tap her shoulder and she turns to me. The look on her face is priceless. But for all the wrong reasons. I’ve started conversations with countless strangers before. They’re usually relatively friendly. But this woman’s face was spitting one line very clearly at me: “Why did you just touch me?”
I pretend not to notice the venom oozing out of her eyes and say, “I think I’ve seen you before.”
“No,” she shakes her head. And it’s that kind of no that has Mortal Combat finality to it. “FINISH HIM!”
Sirens blare as the workers in my head sound the alarms. “Abort mission! ABORT MISSION!!!”
But I press on, full-speed ahead.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you before,” I continue. “I take this bus often and I’ve seen you on it several times…”
“I just thought it was interesting.”
“Not to creep you out or anything.”
She laughs. But it’s that kind of pity laugh that says, “Haha. Keep talking and I’ll call my lawyer.”
“Take care,” I finally say. And I lean back in my seat.
She gets to her stop, gets off and walks away, never to be bothered by this awkward bus rider ever again…