This piece was inspired by Mama Kat’s weekly writing prompt for the week of 10/6:paranoid
When I thought about that word, I was instantly transported to an incident that happened when I was 11-years-old. My mom,aunt,brother,and I had spent the day shopping. Our favorite area to shop at was 34TH STREET-HERALD SQUARE,home to the original Macy’s. My mom spent what sometimes seemed like hours perusing the many brands,styles,abd colors of sheet sets in the bedding department while my brother,aunt,and I picked one of their made up bed displays and just kind of waited. Let me remind you, this is in the time before smartphones and wifi. From Macy’s we’ll wander around from store to store, eat something, get food to take home,and head to the train station.
I always hated waiting on the train because I was tired and couldnt wait to get home and play with whatever arts ‘n’ crafts kit I had picked up from Toys R Us. Plus,if I remember correctly, it was the middle of a scorching hot Summer and ALL NYers know about the torturous train stations in the Summer. It seems like its hotter in the train station than it is outside.
Anyway, my mom and I are standing next to each other and my aunt and brother are sitting down. An old man in his 70s (maybe) comes over to where my brother is sitting and he looks like he is going to say something to him. My mom sees what’s happening and instructs my brother to give his seat to the old man. The man waves his hand and shakes his head “No”. But he stands awkwardly close to my brother for a bit. I turn my back and face a direction that I think will bring some kind of relief from the heat. The next thing I know I hear my mom yell ” Get the f**k out of here, Pop!” I turn around and see the old man scurrying to the other side of the platform and stand in front of these two young women.
My mom says to me ” He was playing with his d**k through a hole in his pocket while staring at my breasts”. I immediately freak out and get scared because this is the first time I’ve ever been exposed to any kind of real life pervert situation. Our train pulls in the station and as we board my mom and I see the old guy pulling the same thing with the two women on the opposite side of the platform. They are pointing and laughing at him,which I don’t understand because I was terrified and disgusted.
He notices that our train has pulled up and so he runs over to it and Im scared s**tless because Im thinking “Oh my God, he’s going to get on this train and rape us”. He doesn’t board the train but he does plant himself firmly in front of the large window we are sitting by and continues to masturbate. Meanwhile, his face has somehow shifted from “Sweet old Grandpa” to “Sick perv Grandpa” and that look will forever be burned in my memory. My mom gives him a double middle finger and the train pulls off.
When we get home and I settle into bed, my thoughts go right back to him. When I close my eyes, I see him and every sound I hear is him breaking into my house to finish the job. The next day I beg my mother to never take me to that train station again.(The next time I would ask her that would be a year and a half later when 9/11 happens. I got really sad and angry whenever we’d be in the CHAMBERS STREET train station,which was directly across from the 9/11 site.) She agrees and for an entire year, I avoided that station like the plague. My mom would even travel longer distances on the train to avoid it,even if that were her intended stop. We never talked about it again and I think she knew not to because was “just another day in the Big Apple” to her was traumatic for her 11 year old.
Now as an adult when I tell that story to people they laugh and say “Gross”or “What a perv” and I’m always taken aback by how a scary situation for a little girl is in any way funny. I was so paranoid whenever I travelled anywhere and wondering if I would ever see that man again. Eventually,I returned to the train station and life went on.