Author’s Note: I’m not sure why these things happen to me. Maybe I’m too friendly. Maybe my forehead has “Please! Talk to me! Pleaaase!” written in ink visible only to men. All I know is that two very strange men have struck up conversations with me in the last three days. The first talked to me for half an hour in Big Lots. He said goodbye five times, but never stopped talking. But the second was even more unusual. . .
Feeling my cell phone buzzing in my pocket, I slow my bike to a halt and pull it out. I am in a residential neighborhood and I scoot farther toward the curb as I check the text. Across the road, a white SUV has pulled to the side, passenger window down, talking to an elderly man. His shirt is blue and white checkered and tucked into khaki pants—high, like I’m sure was the fashion when he was young. His belt is slightly off-center.
As I replace my phone in my pocket, the SUV drives off and the man waves in my direction, calling, “Are you waiting for me?”
I look around, expecting to see someone behind me. Why would he think I was waiting for him?
He keeps calling, “Waiting for me?” I’m frozen, a deer in the headlights as he begins to cross the street. What do I do? It would be rude to ride off, so I stay. Now I am waiting for him.
He is in the middle of the street, a few feet away. “Were you waiting for me to come over here?” he asks.
I give him a perplexed look and slowly shake my head. “Um, no. I was just—my phone was—“
“Because you were looking over at me.”
“Was I? I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t realize.” I smile, hoping this will satisfy him.
He chuckles in a creaky sort of way. “There’s no need to apologize. You just have to bow down and worship me.”
I stare at him, speechless. Is he. . . crazy? Is that supposed to be a joke?
When he doesn’t crack a smile, I laugh awkwardly. “Uuummm, no thanks. I’d rather just keep riding.”
He laughs again and comes closer. Now he stands beside my bike. “Shake my hand,” he commands, thrusting his at me. I notice his eyes are slightly crossed.
I sigh and shake his hand. He bobs his arm up and down vigorously, grinning at me. I wrinkle my forehead and give a wan smile.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
“Serena.” What’s the harm?
“Ooh, Shereena!” he slurs my name. I’m not sure if it’s intentional. “I know one Shereena. She lives in Canada, where I’m originally from.”
I make a small noise and nod slightly, looking toward the street. Toward freedom.
“But you’re much prettier than she is.”
“Um. That’s good to know.”
He leans forward and I recoil, but he just taps my sunglasses. “You should take those things off. I could see your face better.”
“Oh, well I prefer to see what’s around me, but thanks for the suggestion.” Get away! my brain says. Gah!
He lurches forward before I can react and slings his arm around my shoulders. I am stuck on my bike and cannot back away. Is he trying to . . . hug me? My mind plans an escape route, but he backs off after a moment. “Well, it is nice to meet you,” he says jovially, flashing a lopsided grin. “Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” It’s the beginning of May.
“Uhhh. . .” Again—is this a joke, or is he crazy? “You too.” My feet hit the pedals frantically.
“What do you mean, girlie?” he asks as I start to move. “They’re not for months yet!”
“Well enjoy them when they come!” I call back to him as I zoom down the hill.