“Hi,” he says to me, and smiles, I think, as I get off the subway, a
human river pushing us past each other. There’s something icky about him, I
think, but then again it’s such a brief interaction. I shrug it off and follow
the crowd up to the yellow line train heading north, and he follows me there.
Or maybe not, maybe it’s just a coincidence. A lot of people head north on the
yellow line, after all – there’s at least a hundred on this platform with us.

I begin to walk down the platform as I catch a glimpse of him out of the
corner of my eye. He’s shorter than me. “You’re here! Hi again,” he says to me
as he approaches and I walk down the platform. I duck behind one of the columns
holding the thousand tons of earth above us and, mercifully, he doesn’t follow.

I’m not used to this kind of attention from men. I’ve only been a woman,
noticeably so at least, for a year, after all. But I recognize lust. I hear the
train arrive, and hope it’s one of the older trains, the ones with segmented
cars. I’m far enough down, I think, that he’d board a different car. No such
luck – it’s one of the new ones, the ones that are just a continuous tube. If
he wanted to, he could patrol the train up and down until he found me, and then
I’d have no choice but to interact with him. Maybe tell him to stop following
me, and rely on the people around me to stand up and help, but it’s not wise
for people like me to rely on the kindness of strangers.

I sit close to the window and make myself as small as possible. I’m only
going two stops away, and there are at least a dozen more stops until the train
reaches the end of the line, so odds are this guy is going to keep riding and
I’m done with him. Still, he might follow me as I get off the train. As it
reaches my stop, I wait until the doors start to close before I jump off the
train. The crowd is big enough that, hopefully, he won’t notice.

I walk up the stairs toward the station’s exit. I don’t see him, but
then again there are a lot of us. Maybe he’s not following me, I think. Maybe he
really just was being friendly, and my imagination is spinning a deeper motivation
from a pair of barely seconds-long interactions. And yet my heart still beats
harder, movement on the periphery of my vision more noticeable. As I continue
to gaslight myself, I exit the station and see him walking away from it, in the
same direction I have to go. The pit of my stomach drops like a sledgehammer on
the plunger of a carnival strength-tester. I look around for an escape. There’s
an alleyway I could duck down that would take me in the same direction I need
to go, but that’s probably far less safe, and then again there’s a fence
blocking it now – that wasn’t there last time I was here.

I get a better look at him this time – he’s wearing a blue jacket and a
red hat. I don’t see what’s on his hat, but I know from experience that people
with red hats are unlikely to be friendly to people like me. He’s got shaggy
black hair and a sparse goatee. He looks a lot like Shigeru Miyamoto, actually,
though I’m wondering if that’s actually true or if I’m just subtly racist. I
try not to look too long, though – people can feel when they’re being watched,
after all.

I walk past him, hoping he wouldn’t notice me. Of course he notices me.
I’m six feet tall, and he picked me out of a crowded subway twice in a row. I
should have waited in the station for a few minutes, I think.

“Hi again,” he says.

“Yes, absolutely,” I say to nobody, my phone against my ear, as though
it were a shield to block his words from reaching me.

“Hi,” he says.

“No problem, do you want me to pick something up?”

“Hey, do you hear me?”

Did nobody ever teach this guy manners? I’m on the phone. I clearly
don’t want to talk to you.

“I know what you are, and I like it.”

God, I’d like nothing more than to just turn around and knock him out.
That’s what I would have done before, when I was pretending to be a man, but
then again I never would have been in this situation before. Even still, I
recognize how futile this will be. The type of guy who follows women and
harasses them on the street isn’t the type of guy to pick a fight with. Who knows
what he’s carrying?

My hand slides into my purse, grabbing my travel-size bottle of
hairspray I keep with me for emergencies. After he starts to walk away, I call
my friends, for real this time. They agree to come meet me, along with their dog.

I’m speed walking toward my friend’s street, now looking behind me,
watching him on the other side of the street talking to someone else, now
looking forward, hoping to see my friends come round the corner to rescue me
with their presence. One of them is a man, and I know this guy won’t mess with
another man. I hate that I have to rely on this. I hate that I need a man
nearby to feel safe. I hate that this is the reality of being a woman, of being
a visibly trans woman. I hate that I am a visibly trans woman. I miss my male
privilege – as ill-fitting as it was, at least I could ride the subway without
being harassed. I hate that I’m a magnet for tranny chasers who fetishize me
because of what they perceive to be in my pants.

I wish regular creeps would follow me.