I, three days unshowered, hair in what could generously be described as pigtails, skirt, looking like grimy 12-year-old. You, wearing a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas shirt — I still haven’t read that.
Both of us, browsing Barnes and Noble on a Saturday night in the South Hills of Western, Pennsylvania.
You, with a gentle Pittsburgh accent as I pass by, “is that the mothman on your shirt?”
I, completely out of practice in the sometimes grand old of conversing with strangers, give some kind of affirmative.
And we briefly discuss the mothman, where the movie was filmed around here, and how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette substitutes for The Washington Post in shots. I say I have been to the fest, and it’s well worth a journey down to Point Pleasant, WV for that generous a slice of Americana weirdness. We dance around that vital subject of real cryptids roaming about. I inquire as to whether you have read Fortean Times magazines, and you assure me you were just doing so. (I forget to ask you what’s on the cover, and whether it’s new, and where it might be on the shelves — because it tends to be appropriately elusive.)
You, saying you teach seventh grade history. I, saying I have thought of teaching some kind of history. You, affectionately saying your students are booger-eating monsters. You, saying they ask whether Greek Gods were real, and that you’ll be teaching an elective on myths next fall.
You, before I have a chance to respond enough on cryptids, history, or the fact that your tattoos are Nosferatu, a dodo, and a charming ghost, saying you’re sorry to bother me, and turn back to your books.
I, deeply unbothered, feel somehow we were just getting started. Do you know how a young girl waits to be appropriately complimented on her mothman tshirt? How uncreepy, casual, and friendly this approach is? How impossible it is to tell a strange man of indeterminate age that this is a sign that we should be bros? How bros is a ridiculous, parodic word to call it, but what else? So many men in the world with whom I wish to be bros. My mother had this same problem in her day. Men are men. You are not a man. Are you a creep? Are they a creep (only if you skirt is short, in my experience). You can’t just ask someone — anyone, but especially a man — to be your friend, to talk more, to revel in jumping past “pardon me, lovely weather” to “so, is the mothman real?” unless it just happens. And it won’t happen if you hesitate for even a moment of deathly politeness.
You, with the trappings of a yinzer, but the soul of a monster hunter concerned about historical accuracy, sorry to have pestered a stranger, turning away too soon.
Me, frustrated by my tongue rust, delighted to be reminded that folks like you are out there — and in here in Pennsylvania! — hoping we’ll meet again in another place, perhaps with more cryptid themes to help us along in our burgeoning friendship, which was clearly arranged for us by some winged, red-eyed mysteriously creature watching from on high.