"That’s real blonde, isn’t it?" said a voice behind me. I was dancing in a minidress, dripping with sweat and making eyes at every man and woman in the half-lit nightclub. Wait, no: I was in the Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station, which despite recent renovations is one of the saddest places known to New York public transit. The whole thing is basically constructed from rat corpses and peeling paint and its location near the hub of several City social services headquarters means that the people passing through its turnstiles are, best case scenario, in bad moods. It was 20 degrees out, I was wrapped head to toe in utilitarian outerwear, but my ponytail was still visible and that was enough.
"Is it? Are you a real blonde? I know you! I see you around here! I know you!" the man continued. I didn’t get a good look at him; he was just outside my peripheral vision, slightly behind me, over my right shoulder. I was in that vulnerable moment of taking my metrocard out of my wallet, it usually only takes a second but it was so cold that all the pieces of plastic were stuck together in their sheath.
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 year old me might have turned her head and automatically flashed this person a polite, disarming smile. Without realizing she was doing it she might have laughed a perfunctory laugh, as though he’d told a joke. God forbid you make someone uncomfortable. God forbid you give someone every right to follow after you shouting “Bitch! Stuck-up bitch!” so that every other commuter turns around and looks at you and you end up drawing attention to yourself.
30 year old me just kept walking, unstuck the card, swiped it through the turnstile, didn’t even turn to check to see whether he was still following, didn’t even speed up, not even a little bit.