When I was 19, my friends and I were out at a club. It was a pretense to get closer to my crush, to drink and dance with her. There was a lull in the evening as we sat around the quiet lobby, the bass now a dull throbbing memory in our ears. I’d settled down on a low slung lounge chair and doubted whether night clubs were something I could really ever enjoy.
My crush sifted her way through the crowd and, seeing no empty chairs, she slumped down next to me. I was excited to sit so close to her.
She stared into the middle distance. “Someone just grabbed my butt.”
“What? Like just now?” Sickeningly, I was jealous. I hadn’t gone anywhere near her butt and it was something that crossed my mind often.
“I was walking off the dance floor and someone just grabbed me. I turned around and tried to slap him but it was too crowded.”
I… laughed. I cooed at her and asked if she was ok now. She could be such a cartoon character. I might have even asked if she wanted a hug, preoccupied with how I could subtly feel her body next to mine. She brushed me off and decided to talk to someone who actually gave a shit about her.
When I was 20, I was catching the train home alone. It was peak hour and the trains were predictably delayed and crowded. I stood to the side of the doorway, trying to carve out a pocket of space. The next load of passengers boarded and personal bubbles were dispensed with. Taller people balanced themselves with one hand against the ceiling of the train car. Others adjusted their stance and found ways to lean against the crowd, with a polite shoulder and an apologetic smile.
Inside my bubble was a balding businessman, sweaty in his grey suit and functional tie. His left hand reached past me and gripped a steel pole. His right hand was at his side, wrapped tight around a binder full of papers. Like good commuters, we avoided eye contact. My eyes remained locked on the fast-moving scenery outside the window.
The train neared its next stop and his weight shifted forward. I distinctly felt the hard plastic binder press against my dick. I didn’t shift my gaze, I didn’t say anything. I made myself take up as little space as possible, pressing my body hard against the little corner of doorway, wishing I could shrink down into a tiny insect.
The brakes eased up, the man and his binder shifted back. I took the opportunity to subtly turn away from him and focus even harder on the outside world.
As the shock faded, I told myself this was an accident. Caused by a very oblivious and ignorant person. I’m 99% convinced it was. Anger replaced the shock; my breath grew shallow and my hands clenched into impotent little fists. My teeth mashed together and my vision started to blur. I fantasized about the depths of shame and physical pain I could inflict. I reasoned that I’m not an angry person but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t really hurt someone.
I never saw the man’s face. He got off the train before I did. Years later, I can still recall that anger and rage even if it is just a dull throb of what it was at the time. But despite the time and distance, I can’t see a way to laugh about it.