Earlier this morning, I met a woman at my bus stop. In all the ages I’ve ridden the Metro to work, I’ve never seen her waiting there before. I sat down beside her on the bench and introduced myself. She made no reply, nor did she turn to even look at me. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that she was terribly upset over something—intermittent tears trickled down her flushed red cheeks, and her thin hands were clenched to her thighs like bone-white vices.

Slightly embarrassed for her, I turned my head away and waited in silence until my bus arrived. There were others waiting at the stop—all standing at attention as the monstrous mobile monolith squealed to a halt directly in front of us. As I strapped my bag onto my shoulder and got up to leave, she quickly grabbed my arm and whispered, “Please… wait.”

“I’m going to miss my bus,” I said in mock urgency. (I was actually quite intrigued with the thought of deviating from my monotonous morning routine to assist this young lady.)

“Please… they’re almost gone,” she said—again, without looking at me. The last of our fellow commuters entered the bus, and after a slight pause and an unreturned glance from the bus driver, the bus doors closed with conjoining thuds, and the Metro bus rolled on, leaving the two of us alone.

“What’s your name?” I asked, as I sat back down next to her. I turned my body completely towards her and propped my elbow on the bench for support. She remained still, furiously debating the merits of my trustworthiness in her mind. Her eyes raced back and forth, and her lips moved rapidly, though no words were spoken. I repeated, “What’s—”

“My name’s Tara,” she wisped. Her body sighing, and the tension slowly seeping from her limbs, joints and muscles.

“What’s wrong, Tara?” I pushed—not knowing how long this line of inquiry was going to last.

“What’s wrong?” she snorted, as if she couldn’t believe the question. She turned and looked directly at me now. I could finally see her face, and found her to be rather attractive. Aside from the matted short brown hair and the tear-streaked face, she looked like any other young, female professional—maybe one or two years out of college. On any other day, she might be surrounded by male suitors at an office water cooler or chatting it up with her girlfriends at a local coffee shop. But not today—today her life had fallen violently apart and the enjoyment of suitors and lattés were far from her mind. As she peered at me, I noticed that her round brown eyes were anxious and scared—her lips, thin and trembling. I could tell she almost laughed at my previous question, but she held it in with an accustomed discipline.

“Please, Tara. Tell me how I can help you. Did somebody hurt you? Do you need to see a doctor? Please… Tell me what’s wrong!”

To this, she snapped to attention—her cynical smile replaced by an earnest frown. Whatever barrier of mistrust she had erected between us had now collapsed, and her brow fell in surrender. “Help me, please,” she whispered with all the heart-wrenching appeal of an ensnared lamb. “Th… there’s a demon inside me.”

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