The graffiti resistant train rounds the corner and pops above ground at 125th Street. There’s a donut shop on the Southeast corner under the tracks. This slip of a storefront is my talisman. Kerry and I once stopped in for coffee on our way to New York is Book Country when we were first year graduate students. The smell of fried dough mixed with his yellow Dial soap still coats me with longing.
The train rambles up to Jackson Avenue emptying ¾ of the riders and freeing seats for those of us standing. I snatch a vacant seat with the alacrity of a six-year old playing musical chairs. Since the train is no longer crowded a clearing allows me to view fellow riders. Newspaper readers, Walkman listeners, and a few daydreamers like me. In the corner casually leaning on the wall that holds the glass enclosed emergency break and the bold Riding or moving between cars is prohibited sign, is a man with his legs slightly parted, something pinkish poking out where the zipper is. Could it be a penis? I’m tempted to distort what I see but don’t. An older woman glances over at the man and looks away. I take another peek and see his hands, vigorously masturbating. I need to look away.
But I can’t.
He senses I’m looking. He stares right at me and yells, “Could I have some privacy?”
Obediently I look away, shame slithering through me.
Before I reach my stop at 241st Street the man who scolded me for invading his privacy is walking toward me. I look down. Then he’s right in front of me standing way too close. I look up.
He lifts his arm quickly and says, “Here, take it.”
There in his hand is a book, The Bonfire of the Vanities.
Again, I obediently respond to his command and take the book.
“It’s just a review copy,” he says walking away.
by Rachel Newcombe
- You can find Rachel over on her Twitter account: @rachelnewcombe8