It starts like any other work day, like any other day requiring a walk to the bus stop, like any morning that I find myself on the bus, ferreting about in my purse for a nail file or an aspirin.
We are just over the bridge, just entering Minneapolis proper when I notice the furtive movements of the man two rows ahead and across the aisle from me.
To recall it is to relive it. My heart beats faster, my limbs acquire a heavy, weak quality.
What is he doing? It kind of looks –
I don’t finish the thought, shake my head almost imperceptibly. No. That doesn’t make sense. It’s not even 6:30 in the morning, is it? The bus is rather crowded, the same people, going in the same direction…
But it’s not always the same people, is it? I don’t recognize this man, not that that means anything; but he doesn’t look like the 6:30 bus type, does he, with his baggy pants, his hoodie…
At the next stop, the sole occupier of the seat in front of me departs, and I get up, change seats.
I can see him now. He has exposed himself, is frantically working his right hand.
I feel the blood drain from my face.
“Hey.” I say it quietly, perhaps to myself.
Hey, I think.
I stand. If ever I’ve wondered how I would react in such a situation, the moment has come, my reaction involuntary and without thought.
“Hey!” I yell.
I can see every movement, even now, as if I’ve seen it a hundred times in a movie.
“You can’t do that on the bus,” I shout.
“What’s going on?” It’s the bus driver, his face in the rearview mirror.
I raise my right arm, point across the aisle. “This – this –“ I choke, momentarily. “This man is masturbating on the bus. Tell him he can’t do that here.”
The person across the aisle appears to come out of his reverie, stands up, pulling at his pants as he does so. “I don’t need this,” he mumbles. He moves toward the back of the bus.
“You don’t need this? Think of how I feel!” My voice shaking, the words tumble out of me unbidden.
Around the bus, people pull their earbuds from their ears, look at me, the young man I’ve pointed out.
No one says anything.
The bus stops. Several people disembark, including Mr. Self-Pleasure.
I look at the back door, the bus driver. “He’s getting away. He’s leaving. He’s –“ and I stop. It occurs to me that there’s nothing anyone’s going to do.
I sit down, watch out the window as the man glares at me and disappears in the crowd heading toward the light rail.
The bus drives on.
There’s a buzzing in my ears.
Three stops later, we’ve arrived at my stop.
The line out the back door is heavy, and I walk to the front of the bus. “You need to say something earlier, next time you see something like that,” the bus driver says to me.
By the time I exit the elevators and arrive at my desk, I am seeing spots in front of my eyes.
“Good morning,” says my boss.
Five in Five: Tuesday, January 23
7 hours ago