Every Friday I take the Ryomo Line from Oyama west 40 minutes to Ashikaga. If Oyama is borderline country, Ashikaga is the sticks. Fittingly, the train that services this area is old. The train’s seats are perpendicular rather than parallel to the windows, and the seats face one another.
Being a very local train, you get to recognize the people who take it with you. Well, there’s one man I’ll never forget now.
Each week I walk to the end of the train to be in the car closest to the stairs at my destination. As usual, the two young Indian men were in the car along with the junior high students and business man who always seems to get a phone call at 2:25. I noticed a travel mug and bag in the seat diagonal from me and wondered if they belonged to him.
As I put my tea and snack up on the small shelf adjacent to the window, I noticed a man on the track taking photos of the train.
“Oh, he must be from Tokyo and thinks this old train is interesting,” I thought.
Then he sat in the seat diagonal from me.
I took off my coat and settled in. Kindle in my lap, iPhone in hand, I was about to take a picture of my cute tea bottle when I heard a shutter noise.
I waited a minute, thinking I was mistaken.
“He could just be taking pictures of a sign above my head. No need to freak out,” I thought.
And click. I looked over. He turned away quickly and put the camera down. No mistaking it, this man was taking photos of me. I left my gaze on him, hoping he would feel the fury radiating off of me. He didn’t look up.
Anger rising, I pondered what I should do. I could say, “みせて,” misete, which means “show me.” I could walk over and shove my camera in his face.
Aware that he might reply in Japanese I didn’t know, I decided not to say anything. He could be also be crazy, so I shouldn’t go over to him.
Just as I was thinking, “He’s probably just surprised to see a foreigner,” and let it slide, I noticed he was looking through the pictures on his camera.
Boiling with rage, I started to text Mike. No fucking way was this happening. I voiced my suggestions to him and —
Click. More pictures.
It took all the composure I possess to not scream at the top of my lungs and rip the camera out of his hands. I glared at him and he put the camera away, where it stayed for the rest of the train ride.
My stop was next, and I was now seething with anger that I hadn’t confronted him.
I spent the two hours I had to teach angry. Even being around my students who usually put me in a good mood didn’t help.
For the eight minute walk to the station to my train home I vented to Mike. By the time I had walked to the end of the track, I had gotten myself quite worked up.
Ten minutes of waiting in the cold and a junior high student standing in my personal space only exacerbated the situation. Two people were waiting in front of me and it looked like all the seats were full as the train pulled in.
They took the seats at the sides of the door (The best because you can get off quickly. Oyama is the last stop and the train is packed by then). I noticed an empty one, pulled a New York move and blocked someone out, and dashed to the seat.
I took off my gloves and was about to settle in when I looked up and noticed, in the seat diagonal from me, the same man from the afternoon.
I bolted right out of the seat, stormed off toward the door, and stood with my back to him, prepared to unleash a string of curses to make my truck-driving, sailor, mechanic father proud should anything happen.
I stood for 40 minutes near the door, in the way at each station as people crowded in, too full of anger to care that I was inconveniencing them.
We arrived at Oyama, and I was the first person off the train as planned. I wove through the station, knocking into two people along the way (again with little regard – very unlike me). Chest heaving from nearly running, I galloped down the stairs into the dark evening. I checked that the man was nowhere in sight and strode off to my bike on which I sped home.