On the bus tonight, just a little while ago, there was a man who made me feel very glad he wasn’t trying to talk to me.

He was wearing jeans and a light colored coat, maybe suede, and had a weathered stubbly look. When I got on, he was talking to a teenage boy in a way that seemed casual and friendly, like he was a relative (this guy had to be in his late 30s or early 40s), but the more I watched, the less that seemed to be the case, because the behavior didn’t quite fit. So then I figured he was probably just one of the weird overtalkative people you encounter sometimes, who don’t seem to have the same social boundaries as anyone else. But I started thinking “predator” even then, and I watched to see if the two would get off at the same stop.

Instead, the teenager left a few blocks later, and the man stayed. But the next person to sit down near him was a teenage girl (later, he told her she looked about 19, and she confirmed it). He reached across to shake her hand, asked her name, started talking about her shoes and how much he liked them. Which is when the conversation took a turn that really set off alarm bells for me. The shoes were a present, from a friend, actually her boyfriend. The guy started asking her how long they’d been together, why they hadn’t gotten married yet… and then he said, “Tell me, why can’t I get a woman?” and he starts suggesting that maybe he’s fat and should go to Weight Watchers.

She was trying to politely break off the conversation, but it never seems to work with anyone so bluntly lacking manners, so things continued on like that for another 20 blocks. He asked where she was headed, and she named a busy street, and he said, “I’m headed there too.” She got off first, walking quickly, and he followed, slower, in the same direction. They were sitting up at the front of the bus, so the driver had noticed what was going on, and he waited a minute or two, watching them from his mirrors. When I got off at the end of the route, I asked him about it, if he’d been able to tell whether the guy kept following her, but he hadn’t been able to see well enough.

Maybe it won’t sound as creepy written out here, but I found the whole thing discomforting. The rest of the way home, I wondered whether there was anything I could do, except hope there wouldn’t be a news story in the morning, seeking the witnesses who had last seen her. There’s nothing direct to suggest he would harm her, just that gut feeling that something isn’t right.

I hope she’s at home and safe right now.

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