I Was Followed on the Subway and a Stranger Saved Me
A woman recounts a scary day in Philadelphia and the bravery of her "Blonde Boy in Blue."
“Thank you,” I whispered, turning my head towards his ear. He locked his left arm with my right. As we walked down the long foyer at the entrance to my building, we stopped briefly. He positioned himself square in front of me, tipped his head, and locked his eyes with mine. He brushed his singular blonde bang to the side. His soft, brown eyes told me, You’re okay now, even though his mouth said nothing.
Then his arms enveloped me, locking his hands together behind my back, forcing my body into his blue puffer jacket. I nestled my forehead into his right shoulder, holding back my tears, as his firm grasp pulled me closer. His body produced a warmth and comfort I’d not often experienced. And then he let go slowly, and walked to the elevator, gently turning his head around every few steps to make sure I was still standing. He stepped on, and I never saw him again.
I Took a Different Route Home That Day, but I Wish I Hadn’t
About an hour before meeting the Blonde Boy in Blue, I’d left my shift at my uncle’s law office on 15th and Chestnut and headed to the subway, the musty home of crumpled Philly Pretzel Factory tissue paper, hardened gum stuck on benches and an occasional overgrown mouse.
From the building’s door I could see City Hall across the street, my typical stop for the Broad Street Line back to Temple’s campus, but that day I went to Suburban Station, the underground connection point between Philadelphia’s subway lines and regional rail.
I twisted and turned my body through a crowd of pedestrians walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. I moved briskly, feeling the chilly sting of late-winter breeze on my cheek. I held my purse snugly under my right arm, clasping my hand around the strap on my shoulder. SEPTA buses sped by, while bikers navigated the tiny space between the driving lanes and sidewalk, swiftly maneuvering around the parked cars. People congregated on the corners, in front of stores and in stairwells.
Realizing a Man Was Following Me Was Gut-Wrenching
When I made it to the platform, I planted my feet shoulder-width apart, my hips and legs swaying forwards and back, and side to side to my own hum. Within minutes, my train arrived and I boarded. It was shortly after 3 p.m., the sweet spot before the after-work crowds bombard the train. Available seats were in abundance, and I chose an end cap, nearest the door.
As my body shimmied rhythmically with each bump and halt along the track, my eyes focused on the poster across from me, reading each word a few times over. I blinked and shifted my attention to the man sitting across from me, two seats up. He was resting his forearms on his spread thighs, rubbing his hands together in the open space as though he was concocting a plan. He stared right at me, head bent, eyes unwavering. I swallowed and gave a brief, friendly smile, and then redirected my gaze to the door, hoping I'd satisfied him.
But then he followed.
Unable to Lose Him, I Feared How It Would End
In my peripheral vision, I saw him move one seat closer. I quickly glanced his way to see the tip of his tongue pushing out the corner of his upper lip. When he saw me watching, his two front teeth bit down on his bottom lip, as if restraining his temptation. I felt violated.
At the next stop, I stood up and strode to the next car, slipping in between the passengers entering and exiting, attempting to escape his attention. My face felt hot.
Rather than sitting, I stood by the door, holding onto the pole above my head. My extended exhale made the woman nearest to me look up in a fleeting moment of wonder. Sweat traced my spine, dripping down past the waistband of my underwear. I released my slippery hand from the pole and wiped it on my skirt. Uneasy, I shifted my weight and held the pole again, grabbing more firmly this time with my left hand.
Cautiously, I turned around to see the man standing at the opposite end of the car, his posture like a lion waiting to pounce on a gazelle. Now frantic, I inched closer to a middle-aged guy in a black leather biker vest, who I figured could help me if something happened. I tried in vain to make eye contact with him whenever he’d look up from the magazine in his lap, but I couldn’t quite catch him. My heart pounded, and my heavy breathing muffled the sounds around me. The man following me walked my way, never letting his eyes leave me.
Being Stalked by a Stranger Was Horrifying
We were two stops away from mine, and I considered getting off the train early, but I was afraid I wouldn't know where to go. I froze in place, running possible scenarios: If I stay, he might…If I get off, he'll…
I released my grip on the pole and walked through the doors connecting to the next car, waddling and losing balance because we were still moving. My pursuer followed a short distance behind.
I stood directly in front of the next access door so that once we reached my stop at Cecil B. Moore, I could exit as fast as possible. The doors opened and I jumped off, running for the stairs. Once I reached street level, I looked to my right at the second set of stairs, and there he was, coming towards me.
I ran to my building's entrance, fear in my eyes. My mouth widened as if to scream, but no sound escaped. Mere steps from the front door, a security officer noticed my erratic movements and stopped the man to ask for his ID. Seeing my distress, the Blonde Boy in Blue pulled me inside.
I wish I could see Blonde Boy in Blue once more to sincerely thank him for reaching out to me in a desperate circumstance. I will never forget that act of kindness, one that likely saved me from physical harm. Through his kindness, I was reassured that good people really do exist. And what a relief.