The Last Stop


Public transport. The word public is clearly used to describe this very useful means of going from one location to another. I use public transport daily, therefore I’ve spent a long amount of time in there. I always listen to music, but sometimes it doesn’t satisfy me. I therefore find myself observing people; I believe the best way to understand things or concepts is to observe. I look at their clothing, their hands, their phones, their way of walking or talking, but mostly their eyes. So much can be shared through eye contact, I personally believe it is the best way to get to know someone. Technically, I meet new people every day through public transport. I see the best in people, so I always feel safe in the metro. I tell myself that, out of everyone there, there’s a really nice person that would react and help me if anything were to happen. But clearly I was wrong.

It was a weekday and I was on my way home from school. It wasn’t rush hour but there were no available seats for me, so I went to the back and leaned on the doors. A couple stops went by and I was really into my music as I was observing the people around me. There was a young man, in his 20s, listening to music as well. Next to him was this older lady who seemed unbothered, just staring in the distance. The typical facial expression on people sitting in the metro. The doors suddenly opened and more people entered. This man came in and went to the back of the metro as well, which was understandable because a lot of people came in at the same time as him. The amount of space available was limited. He was a middle-aged man with a beard, a beige jacket and a pop of orange on his backpack. This man came really close to me, which I thought nothing of considering the amount of people and the fact that I was next to a pole to hold on to. What seemed out of the ordinary for me was that the man didn’t turn his back to me in the direction everyone faces, instead he turned around and faced me, really close to me. He put his left hand on the pole next to me, thereby blocking me in a corner. I felt vulnerable, but figured I was overreacting, the man probably had nowhere else to go. But no. Stop after stop, people were getting off, to a point where there was no one in the middle of the metro and some seats were now available. A normal reaction would have been to move to where there’s room, but this man didn’t. Instead, he got closer to me. He started staring down at me with his big eyes, not even looking away for a second. At this point I was scared. I felt extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable, yet I didn’t say anything or move. I just minded my own business and stared at my shoes so I wouldn’t have to see him looking at me, even though I could feel it. He was so close I could smell his breath. Stop after stop, this continued. And then it got worse. He took the other hand that was relaxed by his other side and started swaying it back and forth, closer and closer to my private area, until his hand was completely on it. At this point I couldn’t move or say anything. I was nervous and vulnerable. I looked around hoping someone else was going to do something. I locked eyes with the 20-year-old man sitting in front from before. I tried communicating with him through my eyes, and I knew he understood because his eyes answered back. But not the answer I would have hoped for. They told me he felt uncomfortable as well but he was sorry and didn’t feel like doing anything or getting involved. Out of everything this hurt me the most. I was clearly getting harassed, my facial expressions were anything but normal, yet no one stood up. My heart broke. I just stood there and stared at my shoes once again while the man kept doing what he was doing. I was defeated, scared and alone. Alone in the most public place ever. Alone amongst everyone, because that day no one showed me the good they had in them. The man got off one stop before mine. He just removed his hand from my area, detached his body from mine, let go of the pole, looked down at me one last time while taking a deep breath and turned around. I just remember the sound of the doors closing as I just looked at the 20-year-old with watery eyes. I blanked out until I heard my stop. I walked out slowly and for some reason it felt like a walk of shame. I was ashamed that this had happened to me and that people saw. My heart was beating fast, yet I felt like I had died. I had been harassed, acknowledged and ignored, and that was the worst feeling in the world. I walked home feeling invisible that night.

The sad part in all of this for me is that firstly I wasn’t able to stand up for myself, which really disappointed me. Secondly, that night I lost my faith in people. Who would have known I could be feel so alone surrounded with so many people, in such a public area.