Embarcadero Man

Written and photographed by Neva Ryan

On buses, she sat on the seat

Second from the back

Behind the stairs

On bart, she sat anywhere

As long as no one looked at her

On amtrak, she needed to sit

In the right direction

Her body could not be carried backwards

She needed to turn away from home

So as to not confuse herself

She had

Paper printed tickets

Glassy barcodes on screens

Plastic blue cards

And two crumpled dollar bills

The seats at home were hospital-wall blue

The scent of latex gloves

Too-clean hands

Touching her neck

Reminded her of

Sewn together seats

Cushioned

As if we needed comfort

In commute

The new trains carried single seats

Faced in opposite directions

The people didn’t really want

To be separated

The silence of strangers was not comfortable,

But it was comforting

She squished her hips between the red

Triangles

To step out of the station

She paused

For too many seconds

And caught the man’s eye

She’d seen him before

On the 15 minute train ride to Embarcadero

He got close to her

In her face

And she braced herself for the impact

Of a stranger’s skin

This time

Baggy pants and a puffy red jacket

Occupied the space behind her

His stare was all

The Embarcadero man needed

And she saw his retreat

“I didn’t touch her, I didn’t touch her”

In his throat

She was used to protecting herself

But swallowed

And walked out of the station

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