We’re two feet apart. Maybe three. I’m close enough to catch his scent, at any rate. Sharp. Sweet. Masculine. He’s dabbed on one of those high-end colognes that tickles the attention without theatrics. It makes me turn my head, check him out.
He’s a handsome devil, a mature guy with salt-and-pepper hair trimmed into a short, precision cut. A dark gray suit jacket hangs from his broad shoulders. Two buttons lie open on his slate-blue shirt; where one lapel overlaps the other, dark chest hair springs in abundance. He’s wearing a pair of jeans and shiny black shoes. Everything on him—the coat, the shirt, the denim—all looks freshly-pressed. It’s eight-thirty at night, and we’re standing in one of the busiest intersections of the MTA’s system of underground tunnels, and yet he looks like he’s just stepped out of a catalog.
The wait for the subway shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central separates real New Yorkers from the tourists. There are four tracks on the S line. The tourists stand along the length of Track 1, crowding between the pillars while they wait for the train to arrive from the other end of its short run. They watch the dancers who, even long past the peak rush hour, still caper and hold out their hats closer to the stairs by the downtown trains.
The locals, and those of us with a lot of experience with this particular route, stand above where the track ends. If the shuttle rattles in on Track 1, fine. We’re right by the first door. But if the subway cars round the curve on either of the far tracks, we’re in a position to take mere few steps around to the appropriate boarding place, while the tourists who’ve taken those attractive spots further away have to make a lengthy jog.
This guy knows the score. His eyes meet mine. Steel gray, they are. They match his hair. He looks me over, in my silly video game T-shirt, my leather jacket, my jeans and my sneakers. And he doesn’t dismiss me. We measure each other. Judge each other. Acknowledge each other for a fraction of a second, with lifted chins. Then we look away.
The breakdancers have attracted a crowd with their gyrations and their boombox. The man in the suit jacket stares across the station, pretending interest. While his sharp beak of a nose points in their direction, his athletic body is angled toward me. His hand drops to his waist; a thumb hooks into a belt so glossy it rivals the shine of his shoes. Then his fingers drop to the sizable bulge on his left side.
It’s thick, that bulge. I try to resist licking my chops when I see it, though I do suck in my lips and moisten them a little, unconsciously. His fingers casually rest along its side so that I can clearly see the length and thickness of it. Fuck, even soft I can almost make out the head, a soft flare beneath the dark blue denim where the tips of his well-kept nails run along the ridge.
He stops studying the dancers. My eyes flick up to his. Our glances lock with the finality of a deadbolt meeting its latch. He knows I’m watching.
I know he wants me to watch.
A few seasoned shuttle catchers hover near us at the track’s end. No one so much as meets an eye. Only he and I glance at each other, sharing our secret connection. It’s a strange city, Manhattan—where people are packed into small spaces, but pretend they’re not on top of each other. In any other American city, the space between this man and myself would be odd—too close, too intimate. Here, it’s what passes for normal. Practical. I could reach forward and touch him right now. My hand could easily swing out. The back of it could brush against that fat lump protruding next to his fly. In the blink of an eye I could even lay my palm on his chest, rest it atop that crisp cotton, and feel his heart beating beneath. No one would stop me.
But I just look. I keep my hands to myself, and watch his fingers scrape back and forth over the denim, and watch the lump swell and grow.
The next train will be departing from . . . Track 3, says a man’s jolly automated voice over the loudspeaker. Even before the tourists groan, those of us at the track’s end have already begun walking briskly to to the metal pillars in the station’s center. Further down and much farther away, the out-of-towners groan and begin to jog to catch up. The man moves first, looking sidelong at me before he departs. I’m on his heels, keeping him in my sights as the stream of departing shuttle riders push their way out of the train doors and scurry to their destinations. He and I slide into the first car. He stands in the closed door opposite. I lounge against the pole. And we wait while the train fills.
One of his hands casually holds the bar overhead. The other is back at his crotch. I make no shy pretense of looking away. I stare at it. I let my eyes caress that thick lump, where the flare is clearly defined now against the tight fabric. When he sees me staring, it fattens beneath his fingertips. He’s pointing at it, playing with it. Rubbing it. Letting me know it’s there. And he loves that I’m looking.
I turn my head, let it hang. I’m not even pretending to be discreet. No one around me notices. They’re too drawn into the invisible shells they’re erecting as the train grows more and more crowded. They’re staring up at the ads along the rooftop, or out at the breakdancers beyond the vanishing crowd.
I’m staring straight at the hardening cock of a man who looks like he’d be a mean fuck, once I stripped him out of those clothes.
The shuttle jolts to a start. It’s not a long ride between Times Square and Grand Central. I could probably have walked it in less time. We jostle back and forth, staring at each other. Halfway there, his own head drops. He tilts it sideways. Looks to my side, where my leather bag hangs. He’s checking out my ass. My own cock stiffens at the realization. I turn slightly. Show it to him. He recognizes what I’m doing. Nods. We don’t smile.
Over the loudspeaker, the conductor pronounces words that are intended to be Grand Central. They’re as indistinct as a teacher’s voice on a Charlie Brown special. The doors haven’t even hissed open before the crowd inside rushes for the doors, sweeping the both of us along. Even though I’m the tallest person in the crowd by a full head, and should be able to find him without problems, he’s short enough that for a moment, I lose sight of him. A moment is all it takes. There’s too much humanity surrounding the two of us, and even though I’m slowing down, trying not to separate myself too far from him—though what will I do? Share my phone number? Give him my name? Follow him?—he’s impossibly obscured.
I’m sure he’s behind me. I slow myself down even more. But no, there he is up ahead, his hands stuffed in his jeans as he turns around and cranes his neck to look at me. My feet automatically head toward the stairs up to Grand Central, where I can catch my commuter train to the suburbs. He’s obviously destined for the long corridor beneath the terminal that leads to the 6 line.
For a moment—just a moment—we both hesitate in our predetermined steps. We stop our feet on those everyday paths they’re used to treading. He looks at me from atop the ramp leading to the tunnel. I pause at the bottom of the stairs, my hand on the railing.
It’s a juncture in which we both measure the possibilities, weigh the options. For one split second in our two worlds, anything could happen. Heat could happen. Magic, even. All the commotion around me is muffled; I see nothing but him. The universe seems to catch its breath, and waits to see what the two of us might do.
Then someone jostles against him, pushing him forward. We’re flotsam in a river of men and women. In a rush of babble that seemed to have vanished only moments before, we let the currents carry us away from each other. Our feet stumble forward to reclaim their familiar routes.
But I smile at him before he disappears completely. I nod quickly, in thanks, in recognition. In gratitude, even. He nods back, and beneath that beak of a nose, his lips curl and soften.
What a moment, indeed.
Now, weeks later, I wonder if he also thinks back to that night beneath Times Square, and meditates on me, or on those prolonged seconds when the world hushed and came to a crawl as it waited for our decisions. I’ve certainly thought about him.