“Wow!” he said, staring at her. “You’re absolutely gorgeous.”
“I have a brain,” she growled.
“Don’t doubt it for a second. But your brain is wrapped up in something amazing.”
“I don’t know you, but I hate you already,” she said, looking down the track to see if the el was anywhere in sight.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I know that was beyond sexist and completely inappropriate.”
“I actually don’t care enough about you to accept your apology.”
“That’s justifiable and certainly your prerogative, but even if other guys don’t say it, they’re thinking the same thing. I’m just being honest.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, frowning.
“It means, just because the rules say we can’t say things like that doesn’t mean the thoughts aren’t there. You’re beautiful, how can anyone not think that the minute they look at you?”
“First of all, it’s not true. I am not beautiful, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I can’t do anything about that. I mean some people like Picasso, so there’s no accounting for taste, but it’s demeaning to…”
“It’s just the truth. And you can’t turn it around and ask me how I would like it if women only wanted me for my looks, because any straight guy would love it and if they said they didn’t want that, they’d be lying and what’s wrong with Picasso?”
“What’s wrong with Picasso? He’s horrible, I don’t care what they say about him. He despises women in such a hateful and obvious way. Everyone who was in his era was a better artist than he was, including the cows who lived down the road from his bare bones studio. His guernica picture sucks and yet he is lauded for it.”
“Okay, I get it.”
“He should have stuck with his blue period. Can I walk you home?”
“I’m taking the el, I’m not walking home,” she said. “You can see that I’m on the platform waiting for it, right?”
“I mean after you get off the el. Unless you live on the platform, or in the el station if there is one, you will probably be walking from where you disembark, and my name is Mark, in case you’re interested.”
“I’m not. Interested, I mean. And how do you even know that I’m a nice person?”
“I don’t. That’s why I want to walk you home, so I can find out.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because I believe there are red flags in our lives. Flags that tell us to look closer at certain things. And if we ignore those flags, we’ll miss an opportunities that may never come again. I think you’re one of those red flags.”
“That’s a pretty good line,” she laughed.
“It’s not a line, it’s the truth.”
She looked at him and then looked to see if the el was ever going to get there.
“We can sit together on the el and if I feel that you’re not a mass murderer, we can talk about walking together.”
“No one can recognize mass murderers, that’s why they can kill so many people. Their neighbors like them.”
“Are you trying to tell me something?”
“Yes,” he said. “You’ll have to base your decision on something else because the mass murderer idea won’t work.”
“I don’t know whether you’re being funny or serious,” she said, frowning.
“Serious. Don’t ever think you can recognize bad guys. They seem ordinary or even charming. It’s not like they have evil written on their foreheads.”
“So you could be evil?”
“I could be, but I’m not.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“You shouldn’t,” he said. “You’ll be taking a chance, but I don’t know how to get to know you any other way. You can call a friend and have him/her meet us at the station.”
“I have a gun,” she said.
“Do you know how to use it?”
“That changes things, but you might not want to tell guys that. Surprise them, if you have to use it.”
“This is the strangest conversation I’ve ever had with a stranger.”
“I don’t want to be a stranger. I want to be a friend and after that we can see where it leads.”
“How do you know I’m not already involved?”
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.”
“Maybe you were waiting for me. Maybe I’m one of your red flags.”
“I don’t know,” she said, thoughtfully. “Maybe you are.”