What's the Opposite of Serendipity?
Late Saturday afternoon, after cruising around the Brooklyn Botantical Gardens' glorious Cherry Blossoms Festival for a couple of hours, long enough to decide that three-inch heels really are Satan's tools and that I really should have insisted on my place rather than his the night before, I settled down with this week's Village Voice on a 2 train for a long ride from Brooklyn to way-uptown Manhattan.
Some distance for a freebie: I wanted to make the paper last as long as possible, so I hunkered down to read it carefully, only emerging to ask my 40ish, male neighbor whether the conductor's announcement had meant that the 2 was continuing express past 14th.
Since it was, I bent over to focus on this article by Kathryn Belgiorno about cyber-vigilantism. Belgiorno's hook was that story about hollabacknyc.com, in which a woman used a camera-phone to take a picture of a man masturbating across from her on the subway. The man was later identified as prominent raw-foodist Dan Hoyt and has now pled guilty to a charge of public lewdness. Cyber-vigilantism makes me nervous, since I've seen almost appallingly effective blogswarms launched on what have seemed to me very trivial causes, so I was reading the article carefully for some insight.
That's when a slight movement caught my peripheral vision. I remember thinking, "Oh my God, wouldn't it be ironic if the guy next to me had his hand in his pants right now?" Sadly, no: he had his entire, semi-erect cock out of his pants to fondle.
Of course, I gathered up my bags and moved up the train instantly, and, when I looked back before the next stop (66th, IIRC), the man had likewise disappeared.
I mutter on in "Mutterings Continued."
I can't help thinking that the man had assumed I'd seen him before I had and that, somehow, I was into it; otherwise the risk of being seen by all the other passengers on the train should have dissuaded him. I think he had a jacket or something rumpled around his cock to obscure the view from others, although I couldn't swear to it. I'd been intently focussed on my paper, bent over slightly and looking down; perhaps he thought that most people's eyes would wander from a VV page. I think he had a fantasy going that involved both of us, but he was wrong. I blame Craigslist's Missed Connections board.
And I feel slightly silly for being bothered by it. One cherished, battle-hardened alter ego of myself would laugh it off: "Oh yeah, some asshole wanker pulled his pud at me on the subway this afternoon. Schmuck! As though I'd be interested!" That's obviously not an honest representation of how I feel about this weird little episode, though.
Dan Hoyt's much mocked comments about how some women are into being masturbated at in public might not be irrelevant here. The Craigslist "Missed Connections" board, when I read it with any frequency, had rather frequent posts that validated the Anais Nin fantasy of reciprocated desire between total strangers. Handjobs on a crowded subway: that sort of thing. When I was reading the MC board, I was emerging out of a very messy, long breakup, and simply imagining a sexual topography of New York did wonders for me. I liked to read that people were getting the hots for each other on trains I took, and, frankly, it helped get me out of the house during a rather agoraphobic period.
And yet, of course, on Saturday the sexual pleaure was not mutual, no matter what fantasies he might have entertained. In some ways, my having been oblivious to whatever he was doing gradually makes me feel obscurely guilty (mind you, I can feel guilty about anything). Urban self-defense for women requires awareness; the generalized "minding one's own business" that New Yorkers generally practice can only go so far. If indeed there had been an intermediate step between that X and taking his cock out to stroke it, could I have signalled my disapproval at X?
At the end of the day, I know that I didn't give him any positive signals. I was focussed on my paper, enough so not enough to notice his penis, so whatever signals he received would have been the absence of revulsion. I hope he's spending commensurate time wondering about this episode--but I doubt it.
And yeah, in that split second that I shifted focus from the VV article to my neighbor's penis, I thought about a camera. Unfortunately, my digital camera was at home, and had I had my camera, I would have had the choice of catching my five-millimeter-proximate neighbor either at the cock or at the face. I don't regret my instinctual decision of decamping post-haste.