Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Man in Uniform

I apologise for the long post but this is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life.

It was ANZAC day long weekend a couple years ago (I'm in Australia), my housemate and I decided to take advantage of the drink specials at the local bars and pop out for a lunch time pint or two. We are sitting and chatting and soon she catches the eye of a guy in the bar. He approaches with a mate of his and starts to hit on my friend. She's very receptive so while they make googly eyes at each other the friend and I establish that we aren't interested in each other but get to chatting like good wings should. There may not be any attraction but he's entertaining and our conversation is lively.

Everyone finishes their drinks and the wingman gets up to buy a round. The happy couple are enamoured with each other so I look around the bar for anything interesting. Being ANZAC day long weekend the place is packed to the brim with service men and women in uniform and rowdy randoms taking advantage of being able to drink at lunchtime on a Monday. I spot a guy in uniform standing awkwardly in the corner, staring at me, but as soon as I spot him he quickly looks away. Weird looking guy, probably in his 40's who just seemed totally out of place. His uniform was odd, as if it wasn't the real thing but he'd picked it up from a costume shop. Navy blue with brass buttons and gold tassels on the shoulders, a chest full of medals. Something about him just gave me the creeps and that very rarely happens. Wingman returns with our pints so I'm entertained again, but a few times my eyes sweep back to the creepy guy. Each time he quickly looks away.

After about 15 minutes creepy guy finally gets up the courage to approach me. He walks up, while I'm mid conversation with the wingman, and asks my name. Now to be clear, I have no issues with being approached in a respectful manner in bars, I'm not admonishing the guy for that. But to approach a woman in a bar while she's engaged in an active conversation with another man is a touch odd. We both pause and look at the guy, I tell him my name with a raised eyebrow. Without telling me his he asks if I would like a drink. Trying not to be rude because I understand how nerve-wracking it can be to approach people, I decline and gesture to my half finished pint. This guy is obviously nervous and should be harmless but he is setting off my internal alarms. He asks if the wingman and I are 'together', I have a policy not to lie about these kind of things because I don't think women should need to give an excuse to a guy to turn him down, so I say no but reitterate that I don't want him to by me a drink and gently suggest he try his luck elsewhere. He turns around and walks away, wingman mans makes a low whistle and says something like "wow, what a weirdo."

Conversation continues and creepy guy is back in his corner, still staring. After about 10 minutes he approaches again when my glass is empty, asking if he can buy me a drink now. I tell him flat out again I'm not interested. He returns to his corner and keeps staring while wingman and I exchange wtfs. Some more time passes and he approaches again, this time holding what looks like a whisky and coke and says "I bought you a drink, I hope you like it." At this point I have lost my patience and tell him in a slightly harsher (and perhaps drunker) tone that I don't want his drink, my no is not up for negotiation and he's creeping me out. This time the creepy guy doesn't just skulk away, his face contorts into pure rage, like clenched bared teeth and red faced rage, but he says nothing. I must have raised my voice because a bouncer quickly comes over, puts his hand on the guys shoulder and guides him away. I hear him muttering things like "Bitch, whore" under his breath as he's lead away. Although the bouncer has taken him to the other side of the pub I can tell by the body language he's asking the guy to leave. He downs the drink he bought for me in one gulp and walks out.

After maybe another half an hour it's time for us to go. Things went well for my friend and she exchanged numbers with the guy she was chatting to. Our place is a short free bus ride away in the next suburb so we amble off to the stop, just around the corner from the pub. We plonk down on the bench and I look over her shoulder...there he is, creepy guy leaning against a wall, staring right at me. He doesn't look away this time, he holds eye contact and he starts to look angry again. The bus pulls up and we get on as quick as we can and run to the back. Unfortunately he has the same idea but he sits at the middle of the bus, turned around in his seat just openly staring and gradually looking angrier. It's just us on the bus. My housemate and I are freaked out, we try to look away and ignore him so as not to provoke him. We decide to get off the bus a couple stops early to avoid this guy knowing where we live. Fortunately he doesn't follow us but that wasn't the last I would see of creepy military man.

The stop we got off at was out the front of a couple corner restaurants, a bottle shop and a corner store, the kind if place that is a hub for locals. and always busy. On random days I would walk down there to get some takeaway or a bottle of milk and see him sitting at the stop, still in that weird uniform, never getting on the bus if it went past. Before all this happened I'd never seen this guy in the area before, he was definitely no local. My housemates and friends would tell me whether my 'friend' was at the stop again or if I was free to go get myself some delicious delicious takeaway. This happened for months. My friends also spotted him several more times in the pub where we met, usually standing in the same corner and not speaking to anyone. I never went back to that pub.

After a while I started dating someone, a pretty cool guy who was a busker around that area. My housemate came home and told me the coast was clear if I wanted to pop down to the corner and get something, so the beau and I head off to pick up a bottle of wine and some snacks. When we get there the guy was sitting at the stop. We spot him, he spots us and we freeze. His eyes darted backwards and forwards between my boyfriend and I, we were holding hands so it was pretty obvious we were together. He stands up and says "Just like the others," turns around and walks off down the hill.

I never saw him after that, but my boyfriend did for a couple weeks while he was out busking. Creepy guy would usually just stare at him with an angry expression and walk past, but sometimes he would drop things in the guitar case he had out to collect money. Random things like bottle caps and used bus tickets. Once a piece of paper with the word 'shit' written on it. The last time he ever saw him he just spat in it, then nobody I know ever saw him again.

Since this happened I've moved to another city so I don't fear the creepy dude anymore, but being approached by a man in uniform still puts me on edge.

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