In Little Red Boat, I read a post just now that brought back train memories... from when I was in college and took the train a few times back and forth from Boston to My Ancestral Home in NY. Anna writes:
I don’t do it on purpose. I don’t climb on a coach and take a good look around, searching for the perfect seat – the seat where I’ll be disturbed and irritated most. The seat opposite the masturbating man, behind the heart attack victim, in front of the loudest apple eater in the world, next to the baby that screams for England, and vomits for fun. I don’t sit in these seats on purpose. I don’t do it intentionally. It just happens. Call it a skill, call it coincidence, call it the luck of the Irish.
All this talk of trains brought back some memories of mine which I'd sort of put away, but hell. A trigger gets you to write sometimes. And these two in one week bring me to this entry. Luck of the Irish? I'm with you, girl. And have had all those same pains in the ass sitting next to or across from me, and then some.
My freshman year in the Spring I was heading home and sat on the "Slamtrak," our slang for the infamous American train system "Amtrak" and had a window seat in a row to myself.
The train wasn't particularly crowded, but a very handsome man, probably five years older than I was at the time, came and sat by me. We had a wonderful conversation, and he told me he was in the Air Force and was stationed in Alaska, and spent a lot of time alone monitoring noise from the USSR (mind you, when I was in college, they were still the USSR, united and ... naughty in our nation's collective eye). He asked where I went to college and I told him about the school, and how it is a Christian college, and how someday I wanted to be a writer.
I think in the back of his mind he said, "I'll give this little girl something to write about when she is old and grey(ing)." Our conversation came to a lull, and I resumed looking at Connecticut through the window. He took out a magazine to begin reading... it was called "Cock," and it was a gay men's magazine.
Seeing as I really had never met anyone who was gay up to that point, openly gay... or pretending to be gay or just rude on trains... this was kind of a shock. I sat there and continued to look out of the window as he flipped through page after page after page of Technicolor penises. Some were boudoir photography style, a la what Playboy would be like, of guys lounging around by the pool, with their jeans pulled down slightly and their Mr. Johnsons just kinda hangin' out. And further into the magazine the photo shoots took on a decidedly active character, of men doing things WITH their Mr. Johnsons, and having things done to their Mr. Johnsons.
So my eyebrow was raised, not quite knowing what to do or how to react, so the backside of most of the buildings in Southern Connecticut towns became quite intriguing to me as I made best effort to not look at the seemingly endless pictures of penises magazine this guy chose to peruse by my side.
Was he just trying to get a reaction? Did he have a back pack full of all different kinds of magazines to whip out (pun intended) based on whomever he sat beside? If I were an orthodox Jewish rabbi, would he have pulled out a copy of Mein Kampf, or the latest issue of Killing Semites Efficiently Weekly?
If I were a black person from South Africa, would he have pulled out a book on keeping apartheid alive? What was this guy's deal?
I didn't give him a reaction. I think he was dying for one... and after a while, we got to about Stamford. He put the "Gentleman's" Magazine of Alternative Lifestyle into the pouch in front of him, leaving the cover visible, and bade me fond adieu as "this is where I get off," he so put it.
I tried not to laugh, he walked to the back of the train and through the door, and I don't think I saw him out on the platform. Was he in the next car, with a friend in this car recording my reactions?
Am I this paranoid?
Am I someone's sociology experiment for a graduate thesis?
Or is this just some sick and twisted shithead who likes to get people riled up?
I banked on the latter, and I returned to looking out the window for the rest of the trip as the cover model of Cock Magazine stood there with his blonde California College Boy Good Looks, his hands on his hips, and his Levis peeled open with his penis shooting out, an erect invitation welcoming readers interested in his cock and many more!
There was nothing for me really to do, if I was being sampled for reaction... I left it there. I didn't show curiosity. I didn't turn the magazine around (the back cover was pretty graphic too. At least the front cover had a face with pretty blue eyes that I wasn't startled by when my eyes found the cover...) I wasn't going to hide the magazine, put it behind something else in the pouch. I just let it sit there, the whole rest of the way to Penn Station.
Someone probably wrote a thesis on reactions to overt homosexuality for their Hahvahd Doctorate in Sociology, and I am in there as "fat evangelical teenager" or something... with my lack of reaction duly noted.
On the way back to college, on an equally light passenger load kind of a day, I was sitting in the seat with my back to the window, feet up, blocking any gay Air Force Sonar USSR Spy Guys with Penis Magazines from sitting with me (learned my lesson fast, eh?) A 30 something year old man sat across the aisle from me. He wore a light spring suit, off white, probably tan, with a blue dress shirt and a yellow and blue striped bow tie. He had a copy of the Penguin Classics version of King Lear with him, his thumb in the spine holding the page open where he left off in terminus.
He sat down, didn't look at me, and stared out the window.
I thought to myself, well King Lear sure is a nicer thing to read on the train than Cock magazine, so whew! Hurrah! A nice intellectual. Someone who looks like he is reading Shakespeare for fun, no less. He sure didn't look like a student, or a professor. He looked like perhaps he was an actor. Or just someone who liked a good read.
The train got going, the conductor took our tickets. And the train started its trek. After a while, the man began reading. Only he read in a rather animated way... not out loud, just with motion. His lips, his body, his arms. No sound... but he was reading dramatically, as if I'd hit the mute button on a one man show on a train. I was slightly intrigued, he seemed to be enjoying the play-read incredibly. He would stop and laugh out loud and look up at the car's ceiling, or out the window and shake his head, pause for a moment, and resume.
After a while, I noticed he was really enjoying the reading... a lot. A real lot. His trousers were bulged out about 10 inches from the lap, and it dawned on my 18 year old mind that this guy was quite aroused by King Lear and his Wacky Adventures. Perhaps the king turned him on? The daughters? The king's fool? The blinding of Gloucester?
Regardless, dude was over there pitching a tent, and reading/acting his play out with vim and vigor.
And then he started to masturbate. Right there. Through his pants. He grabbed hold and gave his cock a good strangling. All the while, reading reading reading.
Ugh. I have GOT to get a car, I thought to myself.
He finished, gasping, had a huge stain all over the front of his pants, and he got up and walked out of the train car to the next car.
He didn't acknowledge me from the moment he sat down, thank God. I think I might have started laughing my ass off at him. I didn't see him again for the rest of the trip. Made it back to Boston and to my connecting train, and back to my very safe college dorm, to my Bonnie and my very weird Mary. And our Hamster... but that's a tale for another day.
What a nightmare my college travel years were... I'm glad I have a car now, although one Thanksgiving weekend that turned into a "not so good, Al," experience. And people wonder why more folks don't make use of public transportation. Jebus.