I wish I could keep accurate track of myself. I am wearing my armadillo suit now. I left the store tonight and gave a man change: a dollar bill. I always do it at Wawa. They always ask and I always do it. When I am in line, I get a dollar bill out and hold it and hold the coffee in my other hand. It’s not a thing to me. I walked to get decaf knowing it would disgust me to have it but feeling high and untethered, I needed some mission of some sort. Something docile and childish to control myself. I had lost all mission or virtue. No. No no no. Something else: the bellows of the daily news, the sleet, the thirty degree weather. I was staving off the winter blues. When I began to leave the store, I could feel another man closely behind me. He told his comrade not to beg for money after I stuck a dollar in his cup. That was Muslim law, he said. I could tell by his tone that he was going to keep pace with me, or rather, I would keep pace with him.
He followed me for twenty feet and began to whisper slut, I know you can hear me. Which was factually true though, I am promiscuous at times and I had earbuds in and a song playing so I could have drowned him out but I didn’t. He quickly got in front of me too, even though I was in front of him, he made sure to pass me. He chanted slut, you think you’re better than me. Which was factually true though only because of my sheer politeness. Rudeness annoyed me. Although I have screamed at people. I have lost it before. He yelled slut, I know you can hear me and you’re following me. Slut, why are you following me? It was like when my brother used to put his finger close to my face but not touch me, or or follow me throughout the house six inches from me at all times, bored, full of hormones and I would collapse squalling because factually he was right. He wasn’t touching me. All my mother said was: “Alex, don’t touch her!” Whenever I begin with actually, you can say I’m being smarmy.
“Actually, I have music on and I’m trying to listen and you’re following me.”
He turned around, and because he was in front of me, my case weakened.
Before he could say anything, I said, and when I start with a swear, it is because my spine has bubbled into acid and is eroding slowly all the way up.
“Motherfucker, I’m not following you, I’m just walking. You’re the one who keeps talking to me,” I said.
We carried on for a solid minute and I passed him to say:
“See, you are following me.”
Most women won’t do this I learned. Especially at night.
“I can’t even walk without being harassed, I am going to call the police,” he said.
I then crossed the street out of politeness and absorbed my temper which was blaring and sometimes really honest. I felt like I had hurt him differently. Somehow with my charity. I had proven my point anyway. Factually, I could walk really fast, was walking fast, and was going to walk even faster so if he kept it up, I could stop a stranger and present to them a simple math challenge. They would nod and say: “Indeed, based on the direction both parties are walking, I would say he is following you.
My arms will be crossed and I will squint. Sometimes when people squint, you have to watch their mouth. When they cock it to one side, that’s the peacock.
Two other men appeared to be following me that night and when I turned around, one went the other way and one seemed like a fluke. I had stopped many times, engrossed in a thought about the man who called me a slut for fifty feet. That may have been why two men were watching me later. But that’s what danger does. Conceals. It’s 830 pm, I’m alone walking the city of Philadelphia. Danger conceals and lurks. That’s what I do. Lurk. If the two men looked at the note in my phone, it would simply read:
I want to be soft.
And they would lower their arrow.