Two boys on a train. Another passenger wonders what they’re up to.
Mary didn’t like to ride BART. The trains were crowded, they were dirty, and by the time the trains got to San Francisco there were unattractive people riding. These included homeless men and women who smelled bad. Besides that, the cars and the people were noisy. But she had to use public transportation. One of the curses of being retired and living on Social Security benefits and a small teacher’s pension.
Today, however, was different. First, she was riding in one of the new BART cars. Everything was brand new, very clean, and this car was quiet instead of noisy. Second, maybe because it was mid-afternoon and she was riding in the opposite direction, there were only two other passengers. As usual, she sat in one of the seats that faced sideways and were reserved for the elderly or infirm. Mary was elderly but not infirm.
She noticed that the other passengers were two young teenage boys. They were in the last row of seats on the opposite side of the car. They appeared to be looking down and back and forth at each other’s laps and giggling. Of course, she couldn’t actually see where they were looking or what they were doing.
Mary made a quiet “humph!” She knew what sorts of nasty things teenage boys would do when they thought no one else could see. She’d had five brothers, all younger, so she had actual experience catching them doing similar things — which, of course, she had reported to her mother.
She continued watching the two teenagers. If she was correct, what they were doing to each other was disgusting, dirty, and obscene. She decided that something had to be done to stop this wanton, lewd behavior.
She turned and looked around. There were BART police on the trains, but they never seemed to be available when she needed to report something. And she intended to report those two boys and what they were doing to each other — in public!
She heard laughter, so she turned back to watch them again. The train arrived at the next station and a few passengers got on. Most near the front of the car instead of the back where the two boys were sitting and continuing, she was sure, to play with each other’s private parts. Such despicable, disgusting boys!
Mary noticed a BART policewoman walking past just outside on the platform. She jumped up and rushed to the open car door.
“Officer,” she called. “Can you help me?”
The BART policewoman entered the car just before the doors closed. Mary took a deep breath and sat down. She patted the empty seat next to her, and the officer sat down.
“I’m Officer Barbara Romer. May I please have your name?”
“My name is Ms. Mary Phipps, Officer Romer.” The officer entered Mary’s name and contact information on an iPad.
“What is your problem, ma’am? Are you ill?” the officer asked.
“My health is quite fine, Officer Romer. Do you see those two teenagers sitting together at the end of the car?”
“Yes. Are they causing a problem?”
Mary leaned toward the officer and whispered her reply, “I’m certain that they are playing with each other’s private parts.”
“What was that you said? They’re exposing themselves?”
“Well, I’m not sure of that,” Mary replied. “But I’ve been watching them and they keep groping at each other,” she whispered.
“And you’ve actually seen them doing this?”
“Yes. Well, I’ve been watching them from here. I know what they are doing. Officer Romer, I was a teacher for many years at Cathedral High School. That is an all-boys school. I know how boys are obsessed with their private parts. I saw it at home, too; I had five brothers. So my ability to observe and recognize when boys are doing those kinds of activities, in public, is based on experience. Boys, teenagers, have a proclivity to do such things.”
“Did you actually walk to where they are sitting and see them doing what you’ve described?”
“Oh, no! I wouldn’t want to actually see that sort thing. But I can tell what’s going on. From the way their shoulders and bodies are moving, and they are leaning against each other, I can tell that their hands are in each other’s laps. And they’re giggling. It’s very obvious. It’s something that shouldn’t be permitted on public transportation. They need to be removed from this train!” She sat back and stared at the policewoman.
Officer Romer looked at Mary with what Mary interpreted as an annoyed expression. “I’ll go check on those two boys and see what they’re doing. Please stay here. I’ll be back.”
Mary watched the officer walk casually to the end of the car, looking at each of the few other passengers sitting in the car as she passed them. When the officer got to the end of the car she stopped and looked at the two boys. They apparently didn’t notice her because they continued doing the same obscene activities for about a minute. That surprised Mary; it took a very long time for them to realize that they’d been caught.
The officer must have said something because both boys looked up at her, like they’d been startled. The officer said something. They were grinning, and she could tell they pointed down at their laps. Mary watched, but of course couldn’t hear, the conversation between the officer and the boys. It lasted just a short time.
Mary had hoped that the boys would be escorted off the train, perhaps even arrested, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the officer smiled at the boys who grinned and returned to whatever they’d been doing. Then the officer walked rapidly up the aisle to where Mary was sitting. The officer didn’t sit down, nor did she greet Mary, but stood scowling at her.
“She certainly isn’t polite,” Mary thought.
“Well?” Mary asked.
“Ms. Phipps, you shouldn’t make accusations when you haven’t actually seen what you’re reporting to the police. Those boys are playing a word game on their laptop computers. It’s interactive, so as well as using their own laptop they reach across to make selections on the other boy’s laptop. There was absolutely nothing improper going on.”
Mary was mortified. “But… they… I thought….” She was interrupted by the officer.
“You thought that they were doing something indecent. They were not. It was entirely in your imagination.” Officer Romer scowled at Mary again. “You should read a book or a newspaper instead of staring at — and inventing things about — other riders, including teenage boys, and wasting a BART police officer’s time.”
Officer Romer wheeled around and walked to the doors where she stood, waiting. When the train arrived at the next station, she exited.
Mary was mortified. She’d made a big mistake, assuming those young teenagers were doing things that they were not. Telling what she thought — instead of what she knew — about what they were doing to a police officer was an even bigger mistake. She’d made a fool of herself. She was embarrassed by what she’d done. Was she really that kind of person? She’d have to think about that.
At the next station Mary got up and exited. She walked across the platform and waited for a train going in the opposite direction. All she wanted to do was return home. This day had started out so well, and because of her mistaken ideas the day was ruined. When the next train arrived she got on and rode to her stop. She got off and walked home.
Back on the train the two boys were unaware of Mary and what she’d done. They had noticed the BART police officer walking down the aisle toward where they were sitting, so they were prepared when she’d asked them, in a friendly way, what they were doing.
After they’d seen her leave the car, Toby jabbed Shane with his right elbow. “It’s a good thing you saw that cop so we weren’t feeling up each other when she got to us,” he said.
“Yeah. All she saw were our hands on top playing that word game. Hey, our stop is next.”
Toby grinned. “Okay, then let go of me. Get your paw out of my pants so I can put things away and zip up.” That made both boys giggle.
“Aww… you’re no fun!” Shane said. But he removed his hand. They both pushed their still rigid parts inside and zipped their pants closed. Then they turned off their laptops and slipped them into their backpacks.
“You know, since there seem to be more BART cops on the trains now, maybe from now on we should cool it until we get to my house,” Toby said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve been lucky and not gotten caught.”
“Sounds like a plan. That way we can actually do some of our homework on the train.”
“Yeah. I’ll stick to reading. Easier than trying to type on my laptop with the train rocking and bouncing.”
“That’s a good idea,” Shane responded. “Between World Geography and English there’s always a lot of reading to do.”
“Good sir, we have arrived at our stop,” Toby announced in a fake British accent.
Shane chuckled as he slipped out of the seat then Toby followed. They each draped their backpacks over their shoulder so they hung in front; that way no one would notice their rigidity. But, truth to tell, they were only thirteen years old and there wasn’t all that much to notice. But they felt that they needed to do it, so they did. Once they got to street level they kidded each other about it.
They arrived at Toby’s house where they’d have at least an hour before Toby’s older brother got home. And another hour before Toby’s mom got home. So there was plenty of time to resume and complete what had been so actively underway on BART. And then to finish the rest of their homework.
They always rode the round-trip on BART between their homes and school. They attended Cathedral High School. They were freshmen. They were boyfriends. And they were definitely more than just two boys on a train.
By the way, BART is the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Two Boys on a Train.
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