Some writers of horror begin with something mundane and make it frightening but Shirley Jackson, on the other hand, reveals what is genuinely frightening in the mundane. This thought has been on my mind for several weeks, as I have been trying to think of a way to describe something that happened to me a month ago.
The short version would go like this:
A man on the bus sexually harassed me and was unusually solicitous about how it made me feel.
The longer version would go like this.
As I was riding home on the bus after a long and tiresome day at school, I noticed a man sitting near the front of the bus occasionally looking back at me. That happens to be frequently and, while it made me feel uncomfortable, I tried as best as I could to put it out of my mind and focus instead on my reading. As it just so happened, I was reading a story by Shirley Jackson, entitled Paranoia. Now you know where things stand.
With every deliberate glance from this man, I began to worry whether he might do or say. Strange and frightening things have happened to me on the bus before.
I was right.
After a short time, he came over and sat down in the seat beside me. Not being one to talk to stranger, I tried my best to appear aloof and unreachable but he, almost immediately, spoke to me. He introduced himself and I followed suite, reluctantly. Much of what he said after this point was difficult for me to hear over the noise of the crowded bus. I tried, as difficult as it was, to hear him and nodded politely in recognition.
“I want to show you my cock,” he said, leaning into me.
I couldn’t believe my ears but I had heard him clearly despite all the noise. I quickly told him I did not want to see it. He asked me if that had made me comfortable. I told him it made me feel very uncomfortable and added, proudly, that his behavior was very inappropriate.
Luckily for me, my stop was coming up. I wouldn’t have to put up with this man any longer. As the bus stopped, I rose to get up and the man got up to let me by but as I passed me, he angrily said, “I’m not your ass! I’m not your mouth.” Not bothering to stop or respond, I stepped of the bus with great relief. For moment I worried whether he might followed me and look back periodically to make certain he had not.
I was right. He hadn’t.