Beware of the Flat Face

March 17th, 2011
Location: My couch
Time: 11:40 pm

Last week I was kissed.

He was tall. And dark. And Oh, sweet baby Jesus. 



It was a pleasant, sunny afternoon that smelled of spring and blooming flowers and I was contentedly listening to The Swan Thieves on my ipod. Even the fact that I was headed across town in a 2-hour round-trip commute for a 1-hour teaching commitment wasn’t marring the beauty of the day.
As I stood waiting for the doors of the train to open, I felt something brush against my backside.  Given the relative crowd around me, I chalked it up to the general bumping that occurs in such situations.  As the mass of bodies herded onto the car I felt the gentle brush yet again.  With the doors just coming to a beeping close and bodies around me still settling into position, I assumed it had to be someone’s bag slung from a shoulder. When it happened a third time I abruptly turned around and sized-up the two men directly in front of me.  

One studiously ignored me while the guy with a laptop bag hanging just about right to hit my rear gave me an inquisitive glance. Both seemed innocuous enough – no crazy eyes or bad smells emanating from either.  Just typical Chinese men traveling across the city.

With my back now firmly against the doors, I felt comfortable enough to resume listening and I allowed the sway of the train to pull me into a lazy afternoon trance.  My eyes slowly closed and I was concentrating on the story when I felt two dry lips press into my forehead.  Holy! What the? My eyes snapped open and I muttered some kind-of oath.  I looked up at the face hovering over mine. 
It was entirely flat.  Nondescript.  Impassive.  There was not a thing to recommend it to memory .  Dark hair. Dark eyes. Average flat nose. Average flat lips.  And eyes that held no spark of life.  No expression.  Not a hint of triumph, remorse, guilt, abashment.  Nothing.


Again I said something – some sort of mumbled confusion and shifted myself to the further corner near the door.  The man took up residence in the space directly opposite and others filled the space between.  I mentioned to no one in particular that what had just occurred was rather creepy and my gaze swept across the sea of Chinese faces to see if anyone had witnessed the event.

A young woman with a large traveling suitcase glanced from the man to me, and then back again.  She then looked up into my face and asked politely if I spoke Chinese.  As I shook my head no, she mustered up her English and questioned whether that guy, pointing with her eyes, was my boyfriend?
 No! I cried, grateful in my desperation to be able to share this crazed moment with another soul.  I don’t know him! She kind-of nodded, as though affirming her suspicions and then changed the subject.  Asking the general questions of strangers meeting on train – how long had I been here? What did I do? I suppose if nothing else, maybe she thought she could distract me from the awkwardness of having a would-be stalker standing but a yard away.

As we neared my stop, I turned away from her to face the doors.  The young man also made a move to exit, and right as the doors opened he made a grab for my butt.  As the press of people pushed us forward and out of the car, I yelled in horror and shoved the man in his chest.  I glanced back at the girl whose eyes were the size of saucers, mouth in a silent O of astonishment, my own expression probably matching hers and for one brief second we shared a what the hell just happened? moment.
Then I kicked it into high gear, darting between bodies, out the turnstiles and under the station to the bus terminal.  I boarded bus 13 slightly out of breath and pulled out my phone to text the story to a friend.  Just as I pressed send I looked up and Holy. F.
THERE HE WAS! Flat facey was holding onto overhanging yellow pole staring straight at me.
I edged a little closer to the window and updated the story via text message.  I asked John, what do I do if gets off the bus and follows me?

John’s advice:

After years of spy/stalker/slasher movies – or basically any movie that has a creepy person following the hero or heroine, I’ve picked up a trick or two.  So, taking one from the play book, I kept to my seat and pretended not to notice the guy.  Then, right before the doors shut at my stop I popped out of my seat and squeaked through the closing doors.  I glanced over my shoulder and saw the man safely trapped on the moving bus. Sweet freedom. Well, for me at least.  I don’t know about any other poor unsuspecting women on the bus with him.

Because while the drama may be over for me for, it would seem not all are safe.  My friend Dennis works for a call center, and in going through the logs he has discovered five or six similar incidents reported in the last few weeks.  

And so I say with the greatest gravity, women of Shanghai, avoid any and all flat-faced men.  Good luck and if you need it, God speed.

(As a side note:  no, he was not attractive. Do you people really think I’m so hard up I’d accept a kiss from a creeper on the metro just because he was good looking?  Freaks.

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