dude slides right up next to me on half-empty train, holds his phone out, & starts looking at his own d*ck-pic selfies.
— claire howorth (@clairehoworth) December 4, 2013
People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask.
Claire! So what happened here?
Matthew! A penis, that’s what. A thingie thing happened on the way to the office.
I was headed uptown from an appointment, on the 2/3, somewhere between Chambers and 14th Street. It was just before 11 a.m., so the morning rush was long past, and the train was mostly empty.
I was sitting there, minding my mind, listening to Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” on repeat, and a guy who had been about four seats down on my left somewhat slowly slid into the seat next to me. It wasn’t sudden enough to really scare me, and it wasn’t slow enough to go unnoticed. But nobody with good intentions gets that close on a midday train.
An older woman across from me also saw the sidle-up, and we exchanged “we are savvy, knowing women on this dirty, dirty train” glances. Or so I recall. (In life, everyone, heed a wise lady’s wariness.)
The next thing I knew, this guy had whipped out his phone, positioning it just above my left knee, so that I could—and did—get a full view of the selfie on display. A selfie of his pelfie.
My first instinct—which I was thankfully able to suppress—was to lean in closer and fact-check: “Is that a penis?!”
When I was in high school, my family went to a wedding in Colorado, a bajillion miles more above sea level than low-lying Mississippi, where I’m from. My mother promptly developed a crippling case of altitude sickness. She was horribly ill, bed-ridden, and throwing up constantly.
One of the days we were there, I walked into my parents’ hotel room when she happened to be heaving, her head pushed into a garbage can.
I couldn’t help myself, I don’t know why, but I actually said, “Is that vomit?!” It wasn’t the first time my blurterism acted up, nor would it be the last, but it remains the blurtiest.
“Is that vomit?!” has since become a rhetorical family catchphrase whenever someone says something so obvious that she has revealed herself to be an inveterate moron.
I certainly did not need confirmation of what I was seeing—there could be no doubt. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Well, except Virginia had every reason to question the veracity of Claus. But vomit and dicks are not faith-based concepts. Yes, Claire, that is vomit. Yes, Claire, that is a penis. A giant, shining one, around the periphery of which peeps your seatmate, a crown of hair and a pair of faraway eyes atop a gleaming, bald obelisk.
Anyway, my first-and-a-half instinct prevailed. Which was to wish my husband were with me, and to get up and move to a different train car.
That is awful. People are terrible. Has anything like this ever happened to you before, or is this a first?
This is actually not my first ride at the dick-pic rodeo. It’s my second!
The first time was less anonymous, more peenous. I actually wrote about it for The Daily—prompted by the most famous Weiner-snapper. But since that link no longer exists, I should make sure the story follows me around on the Internet.
The first summer I lived in New York, I met this guy—a hot, smart, rich South American—at a bar on the Upper West Side. He was getting dual degrees at Columbia and the London School of Economics. That night, he recited the opening passages of Lolita and asked me on a date.
Before any date took place, though, his cell number briiiinged a text message on my phone, which I flipped open (it was 2004, and we only had dumbphones back then) to reveal an extremely—I mean, extremely, way, way, way beyond the “me and the pussies” business—graphic photograph. I was shocked, and in no way attracted or aroused. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt and texted back: did someone steal yr phone?
I’m not sure why I thought a thief would text back and say “yes,” but hey—is that vomit?
The answer came back right away: light of my life, fire of my loins.
Okey doke. Not stolen.
That photo turned out to be the first of many, the rest of which arrived after I demanded that he stop contacting me. They continued to appear sporadically over the next two years. I eventually got a New York number and they stopped, but I’m sure some pitiful soul in the 303 area code never has to pay for porn.
Lesson learned (if any)?
Don’t take a well-lit subway at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Or talk to good-looking, smooth-talking, well-read strangers in Upper West Side bars. Or be a woman, apparently.
Just one more thing.
No. No more “things,” please.
Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.