This morning I was on the train checking my emails when we pulled into the station. It was packed to the teeth and about to get more so judging from the lines on the platform before the door near me. I turned around and braced for the surge. And it came.
As usual the surge swirled around me as much as it could, avoiding making contact with me as if I were a tree in the path of a stampede, but soon all the available space outside of the Gaijin bubble around me was filled and the surge- that is, those who hadn’t decided to go to another door- began to brush against me and eventually one man turned completely around and jolted me from my position with an almost vicious shove.
All par for the course, until…
A high school girl, in the mix, was shoved against me, backed away a bit and apologized. She was dressed in the standard fare: sailor uniform with the skirt hiked up pretty high on her thighs. She wore a mask like many people, probably to avoid spreading germs or catching the flu that’s going around. Her eyes looked a bit frazzled, though.
She was aggressively jostling herself and I realized it had nothing to do with me. Not this time anyway. People often, upon realizing they’ve been shoved into my vicinity, make strenuous efforts to remove themselves, but this girl’s efforts I discerned were not to evade me but to escape from the man behind her.
Chikan…yappari (Pervert, no surprise there…)
He was a short salaryman, shifty eyed and aggressive himself. The girl slid in front of me, perhaps thinking my gaijin-ness might dissuade her assailant.
At least not much. I mean, he looked at me and reacted appropriately, for Japanese, like a deer caught in the headlights. But then he too tried to slide in front of me, between the girl and me. I closed the gap between us by allowing myself to be swept with the surge closer to the girl.
He didn’t like that. Maybe he thought I was trying to move in on his action or something. But, my gaijin-ness wasn’t much of a deterrent for he too tried to use the continuing surge and his briefcase to wedge himself in front of me. This behavior was very noticeable not only to me but to everyone in the vicinity, but instead of focusing on him and his oddly aggressive endeavors to get behind the high school girl, they kept their indirect and suspicious (fish-eyed) focus on me: the conspicuous threat.
Shit like this tempts me to say fuck it and let whatever will be just be. And, taking advantage of my moment of indecision, he wedged his arm between the girl and I.
As the train left the station I could feel his arm between us adjusting with the movements of the train, only with determination. He was re-positioning it and in doing so was angling his briefcase into my groin to make space.
Fuck it. Here we go again…
He was on my right side. I was holding a metal strap with my left hand. I switched to a strap on my right side and as I did my right elbow caught his squarely in the forehead. It didn’t so much hurt him as it surprised him.
“Gomen nasai,” I whispered and nod/bowed. He ignored my apology probably sensing that my assault was done intentionally. A perceptive perv.
But his hand didn’t budge.
My elbow was now above his head. Switching hands had actually made his access to the girl easier. I had anticipated he’d back off after I’d shown him my intention to intervene. He hadn’t and, as a result, now had an almost unfettered and well-concealed entree to her.
The train swerved a bit and everyone was tossed to the left. Myself included. He apparently had been anticipating the swerve and used it to slide closer to his prey. He wasn’t going to use his hands, though, I realized. He’d wanted to get directly behind her for some reason. And now he was, as I had been shoved further to her left by the swerve.
I couldn’t see what was going on below but I could tell by his face- he was trying to look nonchalant- that something was up. The girl had ceased all struggling and jostling and had accepted her fate, whatever it was. She was looking at her cellphone, eyes frozen to it. His eyes kept looking down. The eyes of some of the other passengers would occasionally check him out but most kept re-confirming their proximity to me, or feeding their curiosities to satiety, or relieving their suspicions as to what my motives might have been for riding the train among them.
The train pulled into Yokohama station and as the doors opened I saw something but I’m still not sure what.
It looked like the man suddenly snatched something from the girl. They tussled a bit to separate like their headphone wires had gotten tangled. He tore away, however, making it appear like a classic NY-style purse snatching, but all the girl had was a school book bag and she was still holding that. He did something wrong, that’s for sure…and bolted away, shoving through the swarm of commuters for the escalator. The girl realized he’d done whatever he did immediately and took off after him. He had been so close to me that I instinctively patted my back pocket to make sure my wallet was still there. It was. When I reached the escalator the guy was nearly at the top running full speed and the girl was hot on his heels. She must run track.
By the time I reached the top of the escalator I saw a few heads turned in the direction they had run but the man and the high school girl were gone.
I wish I had had time to learn more but I had to get to work.