Like a toddler who’s discovered Mum’s no longer watching, Manhattan was drawing out the very worst human behaviour around me forcing me to find my edge.
One morning, jammed along a crowded bench on the F Train, the heat of so many bodies pressed on my eyelids and I drifted off. A light bang to the knee stirred me, but being used to strange bodies colliding on the subway, I kept my lids closed.
The view inside was more interesting.
The banging came again, more urgent the second time, pushing my right leg out, forcing my eyes open.
A grubby unshaven man was standing between my knees, his right leg against mine, the classic pervert’s grey coat draped behind him. Right at eye level, small fingers held his zipper and my attention. In an instant the zip was down and he reached in like he was pulling an animal out of a nest and rested a flaccid, brown, uncircumcised penis on his trousers.
Surely he didn’t mean to, I thought, raising my eyes to his, which were gazing beyond the subway window, into his filthy imagination.
Surely he didn’t mean to show me that small wrinkled slug because what was I meant to do? Admire it? Prod it. Put up a ‘lost pet’ sign?
The pubic hairs were tightly coiled like raisins spilt over his dick.
Surely it was a joke.
But he wasn’t laughing. Or even looking at me.
Frozen, I felt trapped.
Nobody else could see because of the pervert coat and if I moved, the lax sleeping slug might get even closer to my face. It might wake up!
Repulsion marched up my throat. Just move I told myself.
Lifting my shoulders, jutting my elbows I wriggled my torso until my neighbours turned to look at the fidgety bitch next to them and in a flash the overcoat swooped around covering the grubby slug. Grabbing the chance I stood, pushed through the crowd to the door, the narrow gap in my wake closed up like quick sand.
My heart pounded so loudly I put my palm on my chest to feel it drumming, telling me the situation was Not OK.
That bastard was a flasher.
But nobody cared. Nobody knew me. Why should I even care? I wasn’t somebody to disrupt the status quo. I was just another nice girl keeping her mouth shut.
Then I watched as a woman in her sixties with auburn hair, sat in my spot and the creep moved between her knees. The thumping sped up. Nobody made scenes on subways except for the crazies on meth but I needed to help that lady.
He couldn’t get away with it again.
I needed to be a crazy.
“Watch Out, That Man is Going to Flash His Penis at You,” I yelled, jabbing my finger in his direction.
Everyone stared at the girl yelling PENIS! then the woman looked right at me, her eyes as startled as her frizzy hair, and then she looked at the man in front of her whose small hand was no doubt hovering over that fly, and she got it. She stood up too.
The creep bolted and my stop was upon me.
Jumping out on 23rd, the woman waved as they sped off into the darkness.
Sisters in spirit. Never to meet again.
Just another morning on the underground.
Anne Theriault wrote on her great blog, The Belle Jar, that in Nazi Germany it was the nice people who made the best Nazis. “They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than ‘politics’. They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbours were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”
I was brought up to be nice. To be good. To not make a fuss. To speak my mind but not too loudly. But whenever I’ve resisted the status quo, and stood up for something that doesn’t feel right it feels really good. In fact, it feels much better than the other kind of good.
Vive la résistance!