Shaniqua hung back as the crazy guy talked up another woman not far from her. They all got on the green line, but sat in different places. The crazy guy sat next to some poor white girl reading a book. The girl he was trying to talk up sat several rows away, not that that stopped him from carrying on his imaginary conversation with her.
Shaniqua sat in a third row where she was safely out of his line of sight, but she could watch his craziness unfold.
He kept yelling at the girl about how he was going to take her shopping and buy her everything she wanted. All this while he was wearing ripped jeans, a dirty T-shirt, and smelling like he wasn’t on speaking terms with water.
The woman ignored him, and it was the white girl Shaniqua felt sorry for. He was leaning against her, and although she remained sitting upright, she was clearly uncomfortable.
Eventually he realized what he was doing and apologized. The poor thing smiled at him and told him not to worry about it.
Now she had his attention and she had been nice to him. He immediately fixed on her and Shaniqua saw that the poor girl’s fate was sealed long before the girl even registered what had happened.
“I know you,” he said. “I used to watch you play tennis at Michigan State.”
“Nope,” the girl said. “I’ve never been to Michigan and I suck at tennis.”
“Naw. You were all right until you busted your ankle.”
Shaniqua was impressed at the amount of detail in this guy’s delusion, and apparently the white girl was, too. Her eyebrows went up slightly, but she tried to get back to reading her book.
“You don’t remember me?”
“I used to take you down to Navy Pier,” he insisted. “Back in 1984.”
“I wasn’t born yet.”
He brushed it off like facts were nothing. “You know what I mean. You were my baby girl. But then the state took you away from me because I had bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline personality…” He ticked them off on his fingers and Shaniqua was pretty sure he was just listing all the mental disorders that came to the top of his head.
All the while the white girl nodded politely, without agreeing or disagreeing.
Finally, he took off his sunglasses, looked her dead in the eye, and said with a completely straight face, “I’m your father.”
The white girl looked him right back in the eye and said, “I don’t see the resemblance.”
Shaniqua had to cover her mouth with both hands to keep from laughing out loud.
But Crazy Guy wasn’t phased. “I’m African.”
White Girl nodded.
“You’re full-blood European.”
White Girl nodded again, but Crazy Guy kept right on going about how he was her father, as if what he had just said confirmed everything instead of contradicting it.
Shaniqua was fascinated by his logic (or lack thereof), but was soon deprived of hearing it any more. He bent his head low against White Girl’s shoulder while mumbling something to her. Whatever it was, she apparently didn’t want to hear it or had just lost interest because she went back to her book while he just kept right on mumbling into her shoulder.
A few stops later the doors opened, Crazy Guy planted a kiss on White Girl’s shoulder and left. White Girl said good bye to him politely, but once he was out of sight, Shaniqua saw her take a tissue out of her purse and wipe down the arm and shoulder against which he had been leaning.