November 20, 2003

Subway Stalker: Part I

By Tenzin McGrupp

She got on at 116th Street, the Columbia University stop. She looked young enough to be in school, perhaps a graduate student working on her Masters degree. She had long brown hair, and wore tight, faded jeans, black flip flops, and a purple sweater. I noticed a shiny silver cross that dangled around her neck. Her nails appeared freshly done, a ripe shade of bubblegum pink, that glistened as she rummaged through her bag while she sat down across from me. I was reading the NY Daily News and occasionally I’d glimpse up at her, to see what she was doing. She read a woman’s magazine, perhaps Glamour or Elle. I did not see the cover. She nonchalantly flipped through the pages, sometimes stopping to glimpse at the pictures, but I got the impression that she was killing time as the train made it’s way downtown. She started to get her things together after the doors closed at 28th Street. She held up a copy of her magazine and I glanced at the mailing label on front: Geraldine Watson, 34 W. 21st St., Apt #3A. She lived in Chelsea.

At the 23rd Street stop, she exited the train. I was headed for lower Manhattan, but I decided to follow her instead. I waited, and as the doors were about to close, I jumped off. She quickly walked down the platform, past the crowd, out the turnstile, and up the stairs towards the street. I maintained a healthy distance, far enough that she would not suspect anything, yet close enough, that I could see any important details.

When she got to street level, she immediately reached for her cell phone to check her messages. She made a quick call while she waited on the northeast corner on Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street. By the time she crossed the street and reached the Malibu Diner, she put her phone away. She walked east on 23rd Street until she reached Sixth Avenue, where she headed south. She walked into Barnes and Nobles on 22nd Street and I followed. She browsed the New Arrivals section for six minutes, before she looked at calendars for a moment, then retreated back to the “Self-Help Section”. She stayed there for ten minutes and thumbed through a book by Dr. Phil. When she finished, I hurried into the same aisle and picked up the book that peaked her interest. I wrote down the title and resumed trailing her.

She stopped at a display stand in the middle of the store and picked up a David Sedaris book. She read it for a few minutes with a puzzled look on her beautiful face, then left. I followed her outside, again keeping a safe, non-threatening distance from her. I thought she saw me once in Barnes and Nobles, but I was not certain. She walked one block south, then made a left on 21st Street, which was filled with a couple of random office buildings and lofts. I figured that she was headed home, to 34 W. 21st Street, so I slowed down. When she got to her front door, she took out her keys and went inside. I walked right by her, past her front door. I walked for ten seconds, then turned around and briskly walked back. The front door to her apartment building took a long time to close shut, a definite security risk, because by the time my hand reached the handle, the door was not locked. I slipped inside, keeping my head down to avoid the security camera right above the entrance. She was waiting in the lobby for the elevator and when it opened up, I followed her inside.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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