That was the summer that the guy drove around showing girls his dick. He wore a ski mask so he could look you in the eyes while he was doing it, in just a t-shirt and basketball shorts, like a burglar going to the gym.
The news made it out like there was a dangerous predator on the loose, but he never got out of the car, never touched anyone. We mostly just thought it was funny. He’d drive up to you with it flopped over his shorts, not even hard or anything.
Lauren saw it first. “Is that what they really look like?” She asked. “Was that normal?” Lauren has two sisters. Her dad is one of those guys who keeps his shoes on in the house.
“Why would you go up to the car?” Emily has the earliest curfew. Her oldest brother joined the army after graduation last year when he knocked up his girlfriend.
“I never saw one before,” Lauren said. “I was curious.”
The first time I saw him, he had his pants on. I don’t know how I knew. I just did.
He was working the register at the convenience store where we’d gone with a ziplock bag of change we’d scrounged from our couches and our parents’ cars to buy Icees. I always mixed the blue raspberry and the coke ones together. It turned my tongue a dark bruise purple, almost black, and no one ever asked to share.
We were trying to be polite about paying with change, counting it out ahead of time, knowing how much the tax would be, but he still looked at us like we were assholes.
He wasn’t a teenager, but he wasn’t that old. He was skinny in the way that a lot of guys are before they get fat, a month-old buzz cut, some zits. He wasn’t special. Maybe if you got to know him.
“What are you looking at?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
If you stare at a man and don’t break eye contact, a grown one especially, it makes them nervous. There’s nothing a man can do to you for looking at him that way. Not in front of people.
“Well, stop,” he said, but I didn’t. I just smiled as I slid the pile of nickels and dimes toward him.
“I bet he’s the flasher,” I said.
“Ewwwww. No. “
“I hope it’s my brother’s friend Eric. He’s really cute.”
“You’re not supposed to have a crush on the flasher.”
“But I don’t want to see some stranger’s dick!”
“That’s the whole point. You’re not supposed to want it. “
The next time I saw him, he wasn’t working, just stopping by the store, and I couldn’t tell if he looked worse or better for it. Probably the same. He had on basketball shorts, which was a sign.
He rustled in and out, keys in hand, clutching his paycheck. I was sitting on the curb, waiting for Emily.
“I know it’s you.” He turned around, and I could feel his eyes on me, but I knew better than to look up. I just acted like the rocks in the parking lot were the most interesting things in the world until he got into his car and drove away.
Friday night, I was babysitting until almost 11, so I missed seeing him in action. Two girls on my block saw him and ran off screaming.
“I just saw the mask. I didn’t even look down.”
“Sure you didn’t.” The boys in my neighborhood are more obsessed with this guy than we are. They’re used to being included. I think they’re jealous.
“I didn’t! That way if my mom asks, I’m not lying. I don’t want to get trapped inside all summer just because some guy can’t keep it in his shorts.”
She was right. There was no sense in getting punished for someone else’s bad behavior.
I had a hard time convincing anyone that I was right about the flasher, but when he was working, no one else wanted to go to the counter. Lauren, who seemed a little too interested, figured out his schedule, so we stopped going on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, or Saturday mornings.
At least, as a group. I still had to go sometimes for my mom, if we ran out of milk or whatever. She hated going grocery shopping, and something is always better than nothing.
One Saturday, I walked over when she was still sleeping with five dollars from her purse for milk, and maybe some donuts, if I planned it right.
He was at the register, shuffling the newspapers around, trying not to make eye contact when I got to the counter. I stared at him until he did.
“What’s your problem?”
“I don’t have one.”
“You have a staring problem.”
I thought for a second about telling him that I knew who he was and what he was doing, or yelling, “flasher!” in the store. But who would believe me?
I reached into the racks beneath the counter and took a Mounds bar. Confident, though it wasn’t what I wanted. I pulled the seam of the plastic, shoved in a bite, daring him to charge me, never breaking eye contact. But he didn’t. He didn’t say a word
He watched me eat that candy bar, that sweaty slab of sunscreen-flavored soap, in three bites. And he put my milk in the bag next to that little box of powdered donuts, and he let me walk away.
Jaime Fountaine was raised by ‘wolves.’ Her work has appeared in PANK, littletell, Knee-Jerk, and Fanzine. She lives in Philadelphia, where she co-hosts the Tire Fire reading series.