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The Subway Ride

ISSUE:  Spring 1998

Train’s crowded when he gets on, he says “Excuse me, excuse me, just want to get to the aisle, please,” humps into someone from behind, a woman, who turns to him and says “What the hell you think you’re doing?” and he says “Excuse me. I was just going to say excuse me,” and the train starts and she says “But you intentionally shoved your cock against my behind, you bastard.” and he says “Did not, 1 swear, the train’s crowded, I was just moving to the aisle there where there’s more room.” and she says “You did too. you stuck your fucking dick up against my behind, who the luck you think you are?” and he loses his balance a little because of the ride, doesn’t want to bump into her again, that’s all he needs, she’s holding onto the pole by the door, other people are looking at him, some men and a woman smirking sort of, and he says to the woman “Honestly,” and the train lurches and he grabs the pole she’s holding, his hand touches her and he pulls it away and says “Excuse me, and honestly. I didn’t push you intentionally. I was moving to the aisle, past you and someone must have pushed me from behind or just jostled me—I forget—or the car’s so crowded that I got closer to yon than I wanted, believe me, and, well—” and she says “Don’t tell me. This isn’t the first time it’s happened with one of you guys. You think you can get your kicks shoving your fucking dicks around where women are going to think it’s a mistake or be too scared to say anything, because who knows what kind of nut this creep can be, and so on. But I’m not one of them. My mouth is big. I don’t take shit from a man. Is there a cop in this car,” she yells, “because some goddamn guv tried sticking his pelvic region into me and I want a cop to grab him.” and someone from a few people away says “Who did what?” and someone else yells “I saw a policeman in the next car—the one further up—when I was getting into this one, but how are you going to get him, lady, is a problem.” A woman says to her “Good, you’re doing it, that’s what every woman should do,” and a man says “Maybe he didn’t mean it, accidents can happen, the train can push you,” and Gould says “That’s it, what happened, I swear, an accident—I was moving into the aisle where there’s more room to stand and someone from behind me must have pushed me into her and I tried pulling back, but when you start falling. . . .” and the train slows down for the next stop and she says to him “If you think you’re getting off,” for he made a move to the door to, “I’m getting off with you, because I’m not letting you get away with this crap, thinking you can shove up against whoever you please,” and he says “I wasn’t getting off, this isn’t my stop; I just got on. I was only trying to move a step to grab the bar above my head instead of the pole. I feel I’ll be able to hold on to it better and I also didn’t want to be too near you to accidentally bump against you again when the train pulls in and maybe lurches,” and she says “Some accident, you bullshitter, you lying worm,” and everyone around them is now looking at them and the train stops, people get off, on, no cops, she’s looking, and he says “Honestly, miss, or missus, I didn’t mean it; why would I? I’m married. I’ve kids. I’d never do anything like that to a woman. That’s not how I get my kicks, and I’m sorry for bumping into you and I wish you could just forget it. I mean, who in this city hasn’t by accident bumped into the back and front and every part of some person’s body on one of these trains?” and she says “You specifically did it. I felt your tube and you aimed straight for between the buttocks and you’re a slob for having tried it. If a cop was in the car now I’d have you arrested and prosecuted and accused and everything; you’re just lucky one isn’t.” He shut his eyes. It’s going away. She’s becoming less threatening. The words, how she says them, not as much cursing and stridence, she’s backing off. She got out what she felt she had to and now she’s had her fill of it and it’ll soon be over with. If he got off at the next stop, he doesn’t think she’d pursue him, though she might yell something at him as he left the car. She for sure would yell something. So what? He’d be gone. Some eyes might be on him on the platform and then fewer eyes as he went up the stairs, and once on the street that’d just about be the end of it. Maybe one person who had come upstairs with him from the platform might still be looking at him on the street and thinking of him in relation to what the woman had said, maybe two, and maybe both from the car he was in, but then that’d be the end of it or it absolutely would once he was a block away from the station, walking in whatever opposite direction it was from the person who came up the stairs with him. If it had been more than one who’d come up with him from the same platform or car and maybe even out of the same door of that car, well, then he doesn’t know what he’d do; probably just stay by the station entrance till they were gone and then go down it to take the train. Or else, and this is what he’d do no matter what, since the woman might actually get off the train and then give up on following him and be standing on the platform, he’d take his time walking south to the next station on this line and get the train there. But the thing is, she might not have imagined what she said he did to her. He thinks he might have lost control for a few seconds and intentionally moved into her, something he never did to anyone in this kind of situation before. He was up close to her and was aware how close and also that if he didn’t want to cause a commotion by touching her he should stand still and not move past her but he continued to move toward her and thinks when he got very close he suddenly thought of his wife, or was thinking of his wife all the time he was moving toward the woman or even when he first saw her, of the times when he wanted sex and to give her some indication he did he’d jamb his penis into her backside in bed or bend it back a little and spring it against one of her buttocks or legs or if they were standing someplace then put his arms around her from behind and press his penis against her, and around that moment jabbed his front into the woman’s rear end. He was semierect or even erect when he did it—he forgets, but one of them, most likely from having just thought of his wife in one of the ways he mentioned—which the woman didn’t bring up, thank Cod. Maybe she didn’t feel his penis particularly but just his pelvic area moving into her backside, since it doesn’t seem like something she’d hold back in her accusations against him. Though it could be that’s where she draws the line in describing what happened in something like that and also feels that anyone listening to her could figure out or imagine for themselves what state his penis was in. Train doors open, people get off, others are waiting to get on, one man slips around some people getting off and grabs the one free seat near Could, he thinks, while gripping the overhead bar so nobody getting off or on shoves him into her, make a dash for it now; so many people left the train and going upstairs that he’ll quickly get lost in the crowd, when a man in the car shouts “Officer . . .say Officer there . . .over here, you’re wanted, something important,” and the woman says to Gould “Finally; now you’re in for it,” and he says “For what? You still on to that? I did nothing,” and sees a tall policeman making his way through the car from the direction the man before said he saw one. “Step aside,” the policeman’s saying, “. . .please, folks, move, move, I gotta get through.” He could still make a dash for it, policeman might not be able to get to the door in time to stop him, and if he was caught on the platform or stairs or even on the street by this policeman or another one, for this one could radio to another transit cop or even to a regular city one about a bald white guy in green corduroy jacket and chinos and button-down blue shirt getting away, he’d stop and say . . .he certainly wouldn’t put up any resistance if one of them approached or ran after him or ordered him to stop, but he’d say . . .well, he could give several excuses why he was trying to get away: the woman was bothering him, cursing at him, harassing him, even—the train would have left by then, he thinks, so there’d be little chance, if she got off it with the policeman, that she’d have any witnesses—”I just wanted to be rid of her. Believe me, I wasn’t six inches from her”—not “six inches”—”I wasn’t anywhere as near to her as she says, but she jumped on me like I was the worst masher there was . . .something must be wrong with her and what I think it is I won’t go into, but I swear to you, Officer, I swear. . . .” Train goes, he’s still clutching the overhead bar with one hand, book’s tucked under his other arm, woman’s telling the policeman what happened, policeman interrupts her and says “Too bad I didn’t know beforehand what it was, I would’ve asked you both to leave the train and all the witnesses to the issue, pro or con, to join us. But this is not something to discuss in a crowded car while we’re still going,” and Gould says “I agree. Besides that, what she told you is absolutely the biggest crock of—” and the policeman holds up his hand for him to stop and says “Save it; don’t make things worse for yourself, that’s my advice. You’ve something to say: later. Now, you and the lady and me will get off at the next station with any witnesses to the incident, if one occurred,” and looks around and nobody volunteers and he says to the people standing and sitting near them “Excuse me, folks: I don’t want to take yon out of your way. But are there any witnesses to what this woman’s claiming? You heard what they are if you were around then, and it’s not within my jurisdiction to repeat them; so did anyone, I’ll only say, see anything for or against to what she claims about this man?” and some people shake their heads or quietly say no, others just stare back blankly or turn away or look at their newspapers and the woman says to a woman standing beside her “You were here when it happened; you had to see him do with his front what I said he did,” and the other woman says “I was here, all right, but I didn’t see anything. I only heard you saying it. I’m sorry. I wish I could help,” and the policeman says “So just the three of us will get off and we’ll settle it there, or if there’s any rough talk, then in the transit police station on 34th,” and Gould says “No rough talk from me. My argument is simply that I didn’t do it. I was moving to the aisle for more room and to read when I accidentally must have brushed up against her when either someone must have pushed me from behind or the train suddenly shifted or did something, but where I lost my balance, causing me—” and the woman says “You bullshitter,” and the policeman says “Please, the two of you, we’ll talk off the train. And you,” to Gould, “I thought 1 told you to save it for later.”

They get off at the next stop, the policeman says “Let’s go where we can hear better,” and leads them upstairs to the area near the turnstiles and he has the woman go through it again and then says to Gould “Now’s your time, sir; how do you answer her charges?” and Gould says “What I started telling you before but said completely to her on the train before she came. It’s ridiculous, I’d never do it. I didn’t, period. I can appreciate why she’d protest, though, if she thought something like that happened, for it’s awful when men do that to women on trains—anyplace. I can also understand, if it’s happened to her before, or even if it hasn’t, why she might think 1 did it on purpose—that it just felt to her as it I did. But I swear, if my body did touch hers, and I’m not even sure it did, then it was purely by accident and nothing else. As I told her, it’s just not what I do. I’m married, with young children and a good job—I know those aren’t valid excuses . . . that the most deeply married man and best father and worker and religious person and everything could be a psycho on the side, but I’m not and more than that I can’t say,” and the policeman says to her “Ma’am, I don’t take sides. You say this, he says that, and it’s up to me to listen. Now I heard you both and I’m going to say what I’m going to say. You really don’t have any witnesses to it, so it ends up being your word against his and I don’t think you’ll get anywhere with it,” and she says “I know he put his body intentionally to mine and so does he. He’s a good liar. But he had plenty of space to go around me but no, he turned to me, not with his back but his front, something I caught out of the corner of my eye but didn’t have the time to stop it. And next he squeezed into me as if I was his little doll or something, his girlfriend or wife, that he says he has, and that I’d like it. Well, I didn’t like it and I want to make charges against him, big charges. I want to stop all these creepy bastards like him from riding back and forth on the subways and trying to stick themselves against women and smaller girls and every kind of female and the rest of it.” She’s almost screaming now and the policeman says “Lady, calm down, please. Okay, you want to make charges, we can do that, but you’ll have to come to court once his case comes up, you know. You don’t, for no good reason, then the charges are dropped and can’t be renewed. Even if you don’t come to court for a good reason—sickness, or your kid’s sick—” and she says “I have no kid, and I’m not married; I’m on my own, which is another—” and he says “I was giving examples. Then the case is postponed for two months or so, even more if there’s a big court overload—” and she says “Don’t you worry, I’ll be there the first time,” and the policeman says, “Okay, so I guess we got to go to step two, and I want everybody to remain peaceful, calm and nice,” and starts to fill out a report, asks Gould for identification, says he’ll get a court notice in the mail when to appear. “Same with you, miss, and I’ll see you both there. Okay, now we’re all free to go,” and Gould says “I’m going downstairs to continue my ride, I hope that’s all right,” and the policeman says “Sure, it’s what I said,” and the woman says “So am I. I’m not staying here waiting for him to get the next train first and my missing even more of my time,” and the policeman says “So how about us all going downstairs together, since that’s my direction too,” and they walk downstairs and stand on the platform waiting for the train. Gould says to the policeman “I’m not trying to show anything by this but if you don’t mind I’d like to move a ways down the platform so I can save the embarrassment for this woman and me, or just uneasiness, of being in the same car,” and the woman says “It makes no difference to me we’re in the same car so long as this officer’s there with us.” and the policeman says “I’ll get in the same car with yon two—I did plan that—but I’ll have to start circulating my presence throughout the train and after a stop or two, the train system in general, if you know what I mean. So why don’t you,” he says to Could, “just to make life easier for us, get in with me, and if Miss Pizeman wants, she can get into another car. I think that’s the best solution.” and she says “Why?” and he says “Because I think so. Because I know what I’m doing. Because if I’m with him then you know nothing can go wrong between you, from whichever end it comes,” and Could says “Nothing could go wrong again from my end. I didn’t do anything before and I wouldn’t do anything now,” and she says “That’s what you say, but you lie on one and we’re supposed to believe the other?” and the policeman says “I already assumed nothing would go wrong now. I was only trying to come up with a compromise that’d make this woman feel a bit easier. But if you think,” to her, “you want me in your car and him to be in another car and he agrees to it, though he’s not by law obligated to and I can’t insist he do it since he’s not acting in any way as if he’s about to get out of hand—” and she says “One or the other, I guess; I don’t care. Just so long as you’re with one of us. But what happens if when you start circulating he conies to the car I’m in, after you’re out of mine or when you’re off the train entirely—” and Gould says “I won’t go into your car. You don’t seem to understand that you’re the last person I want to be in the same car with again. So whatever car I get into, I’ll stay in, but we have to make sure from the start we’re in different cars.” Platform’s crowding up. some people have moved closer to listen to them and the policeman says “Please, folks, what you see’s not anybody else’s business, so move it,” and Gould thinks “This is awful; besides that, it’s embarrassing. You got to get yourself away from here before she says something that makes you say something and then she’s sure to come back harder and you’ll give even more in return to where you’re in big trouble again and with everyone watching,” and looks at the wall with the station’s name on it and says “Jesus, I can’t believe it, but I don’t even have to get on the train. This is my intended stop and in all the confusion before I didn’t know it,” and the woman says, “Sure it is,” and the policeman says, “So why don’t you leave then, sir,” and she says, “You just want to separate us, don’t tell me; well, good,” and Gould says to them “But it’s the truth; I don’t know how I can prove it, but it is,” and the policeman says “Don’t prove, just go to where you have to and if I’m not on some other thing that day and the woman here doesn’t drop the charges before then, I’ll see you,” and Gould says “Thank you,” and to the woman “Believe me, miss, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding between us, for that’s what it was. And I hope, in the next few weeks, you can see to dropping the charges, because they’re—” and she says “Bullshit,” and he says “No, really, I was going to say—” and she says “And I said bullshit, bullshit, do you hear? Bullshit!” and the policeman says “Please, lady, don’t make it more,” and Gould says “Thanks again,” and touches him on the arm and goes upstairs, thinking “I’ve never touched a cop before.”

He gets the summons a month later, saying he has to appear in court for a day a month from now and his wife says he should get a lawyer and he says “No, I thought it over and I think it’s better I go without one and declare my innocence and take the consequences. Since it’s only my word against hers, unless she’s come up with a witness who’s prepared to lie, and I don’t see how she could get one, I’m sure nothing will happen to me. Besides, I don’t want to pay for a lawyer and I feel confident about it because I’m a good defendant. I don’t come across as guilty and I do as penitent for even the minor crimes or misdemeanors or whatever other people are guilty of,” and she says “I don’t understand,” and he says “I meant—what was I talking about before?—what are you, referring to, I mean?” and she says “What did you mean by “penitent for other people’s crimes and misdemeanors”?” and he says “Just that I make a good case for taking on the burdens of the world, so to speak, the mini to major minor ones. . .is that any clearer?” and she says no and he says “Let me see. That just these crimes and things exist—preying on women and girls in subways, for instance, as she accused me of—and I can’t believe she went through with it and didn’t do what I’m sure that policeman that day was suggesting her to and that’s drop the charge—hut anyway, is wrong, though don’t look at me as someone who does them,” and she says “If you think that makes it clearer, you’re mistaken,” and he says “Don’t worry. I’ll get it right by the time I have to appear,” and she says “I don’t know; I’m worried,” and he says “Don’t be; I’ll look well, speak well, dress well, and they’ll know right away I couldn’t have done it, besides there being no witnesses.” He’s wanted to tell her, a few times, that he thought of her rear end a second or so before he pushed into the woman, but that’d make him out a liar and then she’d insist he get a lawyer. And he doesn’t know if he really did it intentionally because he thought of his wife: he only might have or he might have seen the woman’s curvy body from behind and some impulse took over—of course some impulse, but that’s something he’d also never admit to her, except maybe after this was long over with—and he brought up the image of pressing into her simply to have a greater impetus to push into the woman. Oh, it’s getting too confusing and it happened so fast that day and he forgets so much of it and maybe he should forget it for now. That wise? Why not, because one day of ignoring it won’t hurt and some good idea or strategy about it might even come out of his unconscious in that time. One thing he wants though is his wife to come to the courtroom with him; she’ll make a dignified impression and it’ll be in his favor, he thinks, for the court to know she’s behind him. He’ll ask her tonight or tomorrow when they get up and he’s sure she’ll agree.

They go to the courtroom that day and the woman doesn’t show. nor did she notify the court she wouldn’t be there and the court clerk says he’ll send them both a second notice to appear in a month or so and if she doesn’t appear and gives no reason beforehand why not then the case will be dropped, and Gould says “The transit policeman who took down the report from her and me said it’d be dropped the first time if she didn’t show up and gave no reason why she didn’t.” and the clerk says “That’s not how it’s done and the police officer couldn’t have told you that. They handle these cases every day, so they know better,” and his wife says “Excuse me, sir, but I believe the policeman did tell my husband that. Anyway, it’s exactly what Could told me the day this all took place and he came home after the incident. Or called from downtown, rather, his voice quivering, he was so distressed at what that woman had accused him of; and I could tell by his voice and what he said, besides knowing him so many years, that he didn’t do,” and the clerk says “I’ll put it to you this way, Mrs. Bookbinder. If the police officer informed your husband that, he was wrong,” and she says “All right, that’s good enough, I’m no one to tell you your business and the law, thank you.”

He doesn’t get another summons to appear or any notification why. He wants to write the court about it—to find out if the whole thing’s been dropped, for one thing—but his wife says “Best to let it disappear by itself entirely. By writing them you may encourage them to think they dropped something they shouldn’t have and next thing you know the second summons will arrive in the mail and this time she’ll come to the proceedings and who knows what could happen then.” That night she says “There’s something I never asked you but several times wanted to,” and he says “No, absolutely, I didn’t intend to stick my damn thing against the woman’s rear end; it just happened; you know trains,” and she says “Boy, you really know you’ve been married a long time when your spouse starts answering your questions before you ask them,” and he says “I’m sorry, finish, what was it?” and she says “I don’t have to; you said it. But if you had, you know, done what she said you did, it does happen and though it would have been wrong it wouldn’t have been the worst thing that ever took place. It’s not as if you pulled it out and waved it and then mashed it into her. People get crazy urgencies sometimes; we’re not all made perfectly forever and don’t follow, no matter how good and sensible and moral we are, our most immediate fancies and urges,” and he says “You mean “impulses,”” and she says “Yes, but the rest too. You’re a horny guy a lot—lascivious, might be a better word, sexy; you don’t try to be; it’s the way you’re made. I know that because of how you behave with me and also the way you look at other women sometimes, eyeing the pretty or shapely ones when they pass, staring at their breasts and butts, and at the time who knows what you’re thinking,” and he says “When, when do I do that?” and she looks at him and he says “All right, I do it occasionally,” and she says “So I’m saying if you had done what that woman asserted once in ten to 15 years on a subway or bus, I don’t think it would have been that unreasonable a thing to do, because I’m sure these urgencies or impulses have been in you to do it lots of times,” and he says “But I didn’t do it; I’ve never done it. The idea may have popped into my head a few times, but it’s not the way I act to women—taking advantage of the uncomfortable conditions of a crowded subway ride to get a quick feel or rise,” and she says “Well, that’s good to know, that you have that kind of restraint while still being a very horny and lustful guy,” and he says “But you already knew that, didn’t you. about the restraint?” and she says “No, I told you, I wouldn’t have been surprised or even angered if you had done that to a woman on a train once or twice in the last 20 years, though not to a girl.”


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