Man with Blood on F Train

He had blood on his hands and he was wiping it off with ripped up pieces of cardboard that he dug around too long for in his pocket. Whenever someone I am suspicious of digs around in their pockets, I am 99% convinced I am going to die. The F was crowded with lots of pole holding and sorries between stations and I felt lucky to have gotten a seat, but it was near him, too near, and so I sat hugging my bag, trying not to look. But I do this thing with my eyes where I have to look – like 20 times more than I need to – and it only gets worse if I tell myself not to look. He got on at Jay St smelling like garbage, and in a matter of minutes, it felt like he’d been on since Delancey. His tallit’s tzit tzit dangled beneath his overcoat and his fat stomach protruded in a way that made me think he only ate one thing, and one thing only. I don’t know what the one thing is but it’s something horrible and probably very much against the law, like rats. He held his prayer book in one hand and I watched his dirty, torn-up, chewed-up thumb from under my double-wrapped scarf where I desperately fought to breathe in as much wool as possible. I watched his thumb and then I watched him dig around in his pockets for the gun, the knife, the razor blade – any of which were going to be used when he lunged at me. He was up, I was down. He had me where he wanted me and he hated that I was looking at him with such scruple. I had a pang of conscience and so I made my eyes find someone else… their hat, their shoes, their bag, their book. If I look away, that’s when he’ll kill me. I was setting him up. I looked around. Who was going to fight him? Save me? Clean up my blood? No one looked the part. He moved closer to me. His coat wide open and touching my knees. His hands, both of them, on the pole above my head. He was leaning too far, too much, the blood in my face. The train jerked and he went with it and I thought: this is it, he’s falling tzit tzit first into my small body. I got off at Bergen before it could happen. I stood up and said “Excuse me” and even though he moved with grace out of my way, I couldn’t help but look back to see if he was going to grab me by the hood and pull me back in.