Sometimes she wore earplugs, even when the music had ended.
She would forget they were in her ear, not realize the music stopped, or simply liked an excuse for reclusive behavior. There was something about just having earphones in that made her feel insulated. The outside world disturbed her less, and she could drift in her own realm, free from earthly obligations.
“Hey, lady, your hat fell off,” A man ran toward her with a baseball cap in his hand.
Maybe the music was actually playing this time. Either way, she continued walking, lost in her own thoughts. When he finally caught up, she had already walked four blocks.
“Lady, your hat,” he repeated, panting. The tap on the shoulder was all that was needed to break her trance.
“Oh, thanks,” she mumbled. Her irritation outweighed the gratification she knew she should have felt.
“So, er, want to see something cool?” He had his hands in his pockets, one leg casually crossed over the other. Poser, she thought automatically. “No strings attached, just something cool I wanna show people,” he had a slight lopsided grin and raised his eyebrows, waiting for an answer.
No, she did not want to see something “cool.” In fact, his “cool” was probably a shiny red motorcycle that he did not know how to ride. All she wanted was to listen to the beautiful cover of “Duele el corazón” on repeat, go back home, take her shoes off and dance to the music.
“Um, fine. But make it quick,” she bit her lip. Why did she say that? Her heart started racing as she considered her options—suddenly remembering that she had a dinner obligation, running away while he was not looking…would she outrun him? There are things to consider when you agree to see spend the evening with a stranger. She looked at his build. He was tall, probably 5’10’’. Broad shoulders, the vaguely muscled arms suggested that he lifted weights, but not enough to counteract the chips and soda and create definition. Definitely not a runner. She might outrun him, but if she fell and he caught up, his large stature would give him an advantage. Damn I need to start packing pepper spray with me. Or learn martial arts, she thought, still biting her lips.
He must have misread her scanning of his body and lip-biting because his smile widened. He ran his fingers through his wavy brown hair, “Come on, it’ll be fun. Trust me.”
She sighed internally, I’m such an idiot.
So he did have a motorcycle– not red or shiny, but rather beaten down, used like a tool not a flashy prize. “Hop on if you’d like. If not, I’ll meet you outside the metro station,” he put on his helmet and held a second one out for her. Breath, okay breath. Ride a motorcycle with a stranger? A motorcycle? Statistically more dangerous than a car, you’re exposed so once that thing crashes, there’s nothing…
“Hello? Made up your mind?” He waved the helmet across her face.
“Oh, um, sure. So how do I sit on this thing?” Might as well take in the whole experience. Besides, the motorcycle would be faster than a metro ride, so she’ll get home sooner.
“Just like you would a horse, straddle those legs around the outside, and wrap your arms around my waist so you don’t fall off.”
And he just assumes that I’ve ridden a horse? I’m wrapping my arms around a stranger…what a story this will be. “Come on, it’s not that hard.” He threw over the helmet.
She caught it, strapped it on, and got on the motorcycle. If I die, my parents will kill me, was the last thought she had before they zoomed away.
The ride was fantastic. Exhilarating. Out of this world.
It was as if the laws of physics did not apply to them; they had suddenly escaped the confines of time and distance, into a different universe. Their universe. She enjoyed mental escapee adventures—but this kind of physical escape was a whole different experience. Oh, it was phenomenal.
“Here we are,” he cruised to a stop at a street corner. The street was unfamiliar to her, but perhaps night had given it a different aura.
“Um, so where is it,” her apprehension grew, as they took a turn at an alleyway.
“Oh we’ll be there soon,” he walked in a slow gait, but his eyes flickered with passion and excitement.
Suddenly, he stopped to face a wall, and smiled, “Here we are. Beautiful is it not?”
She walked forward to look at what he was talking about. The wall was a dirty white, just like the rest in the alley. “What? What is beautiful?”
“Don’t you see the colors? The magenta strokes on the left are magnificent. Whoever painted this was a true artist,” his hands motioned across the wall.
Confused, she squinted at the wall, trying to shift her position. Still nothing.
He looked at her with disappointment in his eyes. “It’s okay. Some people don’t see it. I thought you would. Guess I was wrong.”
With one final look at her, he left, not saying another word.
She stood in the alleyway, baseball cap in her hands, and stared at the white wall for another 20 minutes, as if in a trance.
Her eyes lower to the hat, and her heart started racing again. Something was not right.
It was not her hat. She did not wear cap that day.