It was light jacket weather when that guy jerked off in front of me on the Red Line. Kind of chilly but not quite fall. I was heading downtown from Edgewater. It was late afternoon. I was 18. I remember these things, but mostly I remember that I denied what was happening up until the point of no return, and let me spoil it for you: His dick was out. His hand was on it, moving up and down. He was jacking off just across the aisle. I turned away so fast my neck cracked.
I’d seen strange peen in the wild once or twice before, the odd crazy or perv exposing themselves. And there’s always dudes grabbing their denim-clad junk, either at you or in the general sense, offering their dong to the world. I should have been prepared.
In fact, I should have been super prepared, because my friend and I had talked about this the week before. We were on the Red Line. Mid-Loop. She was telling me about some dude who’d whipped it out on the train recently. She’d stared straight at it then looked away. It took his power away, she said, to not react to it. She was older and wiser. I was impressed. What a badass, I thought. She’s so much better than me.
But in that moment I was in mild shock. Again, maybe because I’d been lying to myself hardcore from the moment he stepped on the train.
It was an empty train car. He took the seat directly behind me.
That’s odd. But not super odd.
I went back to texting on my cool new Nokia brick phone.
His breathing sped up. He leaned towards me, so close I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. My stomach churned, but still I refused to believe it. I needed to see it with my own eyes. I was about to get my wish.
The train stopped. The doors opened. As they closed, he moved like a snake to the seat directly across. I didn’t have time to contemplate how someone so short and stocky moved so fast because his hands were fiddling with his pants.
Maybe he’s just fixing his fly FUCK it’s out, his dick is out, yup it’s totally out. FUCK.
Not only out, but fully hard and getting more so by the second. He didn’t look at me, but stared straight ahead the entire time. This was somehow worse.
I swallowed. I said nothing. I did nothing. When we got to Argyle, I ran to another car.
Sorry, older friend. I wasn’t strong or feminist about it. I was scared and grossed out. He won. But I think it’s like when people yell at horror movies: “Don’t go into the basement!” “Why don’t they stay together?!” “Hide all the knives!” It seems obvious from the comfort of your couch that duh, you’d make the right decision. But really, shock and adrenaline make a person all kinds of confused and cowardly. You might run into the basement. You might do nothing while some dude jerks off a few feet away.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? Fear and disgust addle our smart and brave parts, pulling the focus off you and onto in my case, some creepy fuck with his dick hanging out of his pants.
Trust your instincts. If you think he’s going to jerk off, he is going to jerk off. And however you react is okay. I’m not going to judge you. But if you can, don’t let the dick-monsters from the Red Line Horror Show win. Take a picture. Raise your voice. Send it to the police. Put it on the Internet. Do something. Don’t make the world safer for creeps and pervs, and worse for girls and women. The world doesn’t really need your help.