Like anyone else who has ever owned a U-Pass, I’ve had some bizarre experiences on the light rail.
I frequently made trips between downtown and Tempe for class and to see friends, like a lot of other freshmen did. Once, I was heading back home at dusk with a few of my friends when we encountered one of the strangest performers I’d ever seen or heard. This could happen to you.
As the light rail doors slid open and we boarded the light rail, we were met with the neon sounds of ’80s-style synthesizers. Someone was blasting some smooth jazz, old-school R&B and epic, sultry slow jamz from an old boombox. That someone was a slender black dude, standing about 5 feet tall and dressed in a skintight black leotard.
Now, most people are used to riding the light rail with a certain sedated bubble of detachment. You take your seat, you avoid eye contact, you try to keep away from any outright jumpy tweakers, you keep your head down in a book (or, more likely, phone, right?), and you tune out of the rattling, humming, beeping, computer-voiced trip that is the light rail from Veterans Way to Van Buren.
Leotard Dude was out to upend the established order. Stationed, but by no means fixed, to the bike rack hallways, Leotard Dude wasn’t just listening to the tunes on his boombox, he was dancing, singing (mostly improvised lyrics) and, occasionally, busting out a flurried flute solo.
Leotard Dude bellowed, cooed, emoted, gyrated, undulated. He grinded on the walls and the floor and made a lot of eye contact with whoever around dared to observe his debauched spectacle. The speakers crackled at their high volume, almost at the bursting point of a blowout, which distorted the otherwise serene music into a noisy soup that retained only the outline of the originally sensual R&B.
The lines that he sang, repeated again and again like a mantra, were fragments from a glossary of maudlin love-song cliches, directed at no one and everyone: “don’t leave me again,” “I can’t do without you,” bits like that. Sometimes he would direct his lovelorn attention to a particular passenger and serenade them for a minute or two — incidentally, the car we were in was occupied by only men, charging the performance with an intense homoerotic vibe that flustered whoever was up next in the hot seat.
After a while, Leotard Dude packed up his flute and got off the light rail — was this just a regular commute for him? None of us know who Leotard Dude is, nor have we seen him since. For all we know, that was the only night he did his thing on the light rail. As far as Google could show me, there’s no trace of his presence on the Internet until this post. Hopefully, this serves as a beacon to anyone else who might have witnessed the elusive Leotard Dude.