It didn’t help that several months prior I had seen a very well crafted and extremely disturbing movie about kidnapping, pedophilia and revenge.
It also didn’t help that at this specific moment in time I was sitting on a half-empty F train reading a critical analysis of that very same movie which was reminding me of all the twisted terrifying moments in the film.
An article like that puts you in a strange headspace, and I myself was already feeling a little creeped out.
So when I looked up and saw the very out-of-place man across from me measuring out arm lengths of rope I felt anxiety like interior goose bumps.
He had messy salt and pepper hair, and the large nose and ears that come with age. He was wearing a green cotton coat with too many pockets and a pair of Dr Martens laced with military precision.
He looked different, not homeless just a bit disconnected from society. Like he had been living in the same apartment for the last 40 years and hadn’t changed a single thing in his life since he moved in. Like his might be the car that had 8 months worth of newspapers piled up in the back seat.
At first he was rifling furiously through his many pockets bits of twine and metal falling out. I couldn’t tell what he was looking for but he was out of place enough that he warranted my attention.
He didn’t seem frantic but he was moving quickly as strange bits of indecipherable this and that fell to the empty seats around him (surprise) and the floor.
He began measuring out the twine, of which there was probably ten feet which is when I became 100 percent positive he was going to strangle me.
Had he been in the process of mounting a Christmas tree to a car his moves would have appeared masterful and might have even been admirable, but he wasn’t tying up a Christmas tree.
He was doing them on the F train during the reverse commute at rush hour.
I was trying not to stare as this all took place 5 feet away from me but the longer his process went on, the harder it became to look away.
The article on nutrition in the NBA that I had begun reading became a lot less interesting.
He began threading the twine through the front two belt loops tying them closet together which seemed strange to me as he was already wearing a black leather built with flames embroidered or painted on to it (I didn't get closer enough to find out).
Even stranger still was that while staring down at his crotch as he tied the knot he didn’t realize his fly was completely unzipped, his pants wide open as though they were in the middle of singing a particularly long note of a song.
He finished threading his twine, cinched his pants and pulled out what I though was a Swiss Army Knife (to stab me with). When I saw the flame I realized it was a lighter that he was using it burn the twine so it would break.
Ten minutes into watching this guy and he already had two weapons.
I was not the only one who witnessed this, nor was I alone in my silence in saying anything. People playing with fire on the subway tend not to be easily swayed with rational discussion.
He then took off his belt rolled it up and put it in his pockets, a tool for a later kidnapping perhaps.
At one point early in the process he had dropped his twine and I contemplated telling him but then realized that he might be a strangler and I thought about how bad I’d feel if I had helped a strangler.
So I said nothing but he had noticed his loss and picked it up.
After his pants had been tightened though still wide open he pulled out a sealed bag that said TOP on it. I fully expected him to unwrap a toy top and start spinning it on the seat next to him. It would not have surprised me in the least.
I wasn’t even pretending to read anymore. I was just openly staring and looking away when he looked up, which wasn’t often as he was 100% keyed in to what he was doing. He couldn’t care less about the rest of the train denizens thought of him.
It quickly became obvious that TOP was a pack of loose tobacco and he began the process of rolling a cigarette not on his lap but on the orange subway seat itself.
At first I was disgusted as I try to avoid touching as few things on the subway as possible, and certainly I try not to put anything that will end up in my mouth on a subway seat.
But I suppose gross is relative, as it probably doesn’t get much more gross sticking a burning tube of tar and cancer in your mouth.
Though I’m sure this wasn’t a debate the would-be strangle was having with himself.
He finished stuffing his rolling papers, rolled I up, licked the edge, sealed it, and then brushed the considerable amount of tobacco trimmings off of his clothes and onto the floor before quickly standing up and getting off at the last stop in Queens.
Because if he had gotten off at my stop I might have followed him just to see what happened next.
And that would have been a horrible idea.