Last night I met a man who is either a serial killer or who has some serious aspirations to become one. It was late for a Thursday - around 1:15 am and I was just leaving my friends’ apartment. As these friends lived down by the seaport, it was normal for the area to be a quiet ghost town but for someone who was used to being surrounded by the Big Apple’s constant hustle and bustle regardless of the time, it was a little eerie and off-putting.
As I scurried towards the subway that would take me back towards the relative safety of my lively neighborhood, I was pretty uncomfortable with both the silence and the fact that to get to the station, I was going to have to travel through Chinatown – an area of town I absolutely loathe. It was at that moment that I spotted an M15 bus lighting up the night and heading exactly my way. This would not only help me bypass 15 more minutes of walking, it would get me to a well-populated subway stop just 4 away from mine.
The driver waited patiently as I ran towards the bus. He seemed pleasant enough and even inquired whether or not I was lost. Deciding that he seemed safer than the homeless crackhead sprawled out sleeping the back, I sat in the front section. Upon getting myself settled into my seat in preparation for the 65 block trip, I got the uncomfortable feeling that I was getting watched and looking up, I noticed the driver peering back at me in his mirror. Something about him made all the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end.
Finally he stopped simply staring and spoke: an inquiry as to whether or not I liked the current weather. As I responded that I was not really a fan of the humidity, he responded enthusiastically about how much I might love Arizona – one of his favorite places, known for its dry heat. Just as I thought to myself that maybe I needed to lay off the Criminal Minds and Law&Order, the conversation turned from hiking in the beautiful Grand Canyon to some of the many murders that had occurred there. I was barraged with stories of death and violence. . .husbands killing wives, boyfriends doing away with girlfriends – it didn’t take long to notice that all the victims in each of his stories were women. He spoke passionately when talking about serial killers who’s “type” was young females and even mentioned that in Arizona’s deserts, it was easy for someone to disappear without a trace or for an act of violence to be disguised as an accident.
I am a big believer in listening to what my intuition tells me so it was at this point that I started to literally be afraid - as in terrified to the point that I texted the driver ID# and the bus route I was on to one of my friends. I kicked myself for telling the driver which stop I was riding to.
Normal protocol for New York City’s MTA public buses is to skip stops in which there are no passengers waiting to get on and no passengers riding have signaled that they would like to get off. My driver pulled over briefly at every desolate stop, making the trip last as long as possible. At 42nd St, which was about 25 minutes into a ride that felt like 3 hours, a hoodrat-looking young guy got on. I had never been so happy to see a stranger before in my life! My face must have been very readable because he looked me in the eyes with questioning concern and sat across the aisle. Before long, he too was seeing just why I was so freaked out.
Deciding that 10 streets was an easy walk to the subway and that I had reached my limit on the late-night crime tales, I interrupted the final account of a wayward girlfriend who met her grisly end by being thrown over the side of a cliff and into the river to inform the busdriver that I would get off the next stop. I saw the bench signifying my safety get closer and I breathed a sigh of relief. . .until he didn’t stop. At this point, I was pretty much having a panic attack in my brain. Mid-internal freakout, I vaguely heard the driver say he would drop me at my intended destination.
Those 10 city streets were the longest of my life and when I was finally released, I literally sprinted all the way into the subway. Safely nestled among other young professionals on their way home, the adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as I recounted everything I had just heard. Whether it was just that the driver was a lonely, overly-enthusiastic, creepy storyteller or that his passionate speech was a cover for more sinister fantasies, I came to an easy conclusion: it will be a long time before I brave those buses again.