And I'm running late again for work. This entails lesser buses, longer waiting time along Talaba. My brother Louie strongly disapproved of this new route. He finds it too dark and too dangerous. I appreciate his concern but I always shrug it off.

That night, I was on a race again with time. In spite of this, my heart only desired getting on an aircon bus. Why, you ask? I was getting sick and tired of my usual Mufasa hair-do.

Then one man popped out of nowhere and asked if there were still buses bound to Baclaran at that time. I said it would take longer than the usual to catch a bus but there were loads of jeepneys still. He seemed convinced then looked away. As if realizing he hadn't thanked me, he looked back and greeted me, "Happy Valentine's Day!". Knowing he must be unaware of my viewpoint on Valentine's, I managed to supress my eyebrows from reaching my scalp and nodded away. After all, that highly meaningless day was just less than 60 minutes away.

Perhaps he misinterpreted my gesture as an invitation for intimacy. He went ahead and inquired if I were just about to go to work. I nodded. Fear started to mount. It was almost payday and he must be on a lookout for his next call center victim. He commented it was already late then, as if I demonstrated any interest, he went on saying he was a seaman, he just came from training in Naic and blah blah blah. My dread was slowly being replaced by annoyance. As if it were not enough, he had the nerve to invite me for dinner in Jollibee and pointed somewhere I was confident no food chain stood. I turned him down politely, saying I was late for work. He rebutted I can ditch work and he'd just pay for whatever my shift amounts to. Shocked, I attempted to convince myself I was just hearing things. But he went on, delivering strings of madness my ears were not prepared for.

He introduced himself as Dante and showed me his hand to shake. Avoiding eye contact at all cost, I played mute and declined to shake his hand. He eventually realized I was not a friendly person and put down his hand. If he said something else after that, I wouldn't know. My heartbeats were deafening. Where the hell are the jeepneys when you badly need them?!

I immediately hailed the first jeepney that approached us. I didn't care if my hair would look asking for an exchange of banter anymore. I wanted to get away from him the soonest time possible. To my panic, he followed suit. I sat on the end of the jeep, behind the driver and beside the mother with a sobbing infant. I normally distance myself from kids but I didn't care anymore. I still refused to meet his eyes. I text barraged my closest friends about my ordeal. If he decided to attack me and do whatever he wanted to after, I know there would a group of people who would scour the earth for my lifeless body.

Thankfully, he didn't approach me anymore when the mother seated next to me went down and didn't dash to the same bus I did upon reaching Baclaran. What a relief!