The woman sitting next to me on the airplane was obese. Her side fat was hanging over the armrest, suctioning to my body like wet beef tenderloin. This was a six-hour flight, and I had intended to work on my dissertation, but this woman's stomach was invading my territory in a very distracting manner. It's hard to concentrate with a stranger's obesity problem sitting on your lap.
When I am touched by a man I don't know, or even just a man I don't know well, I instantly think of sex. Automatically, as this hypothetical man's hand brushes along my shoulder, I imagine what he might be like in bed, what parts of the female body he'd be partial to, if he'd do anything odd, if he'd suspiciously attend to my breasts as though he were an infant begging for milk. I can't help it. There's isn't a moment wherein I can decide not to consider the possible sexual result of a friendly gesture.
And, as it turns out, I can't help but imagine these same possibilities when a hefty, damp woman oozes over the armrest on an airplane to caress me with her gut.
Goddamnit, I thought.
Now I was fighting the urge to picture this beast naked and trying to breastfeed from my tits. I took out my dissertation materials in order to distract myself. Unfortunately, what I had with me was a book about sexual deviance because this is exactly the topic of my dissertation. Not a good distraction from what was now a raunchy and unwanted fantasy of being spanked by the fat lady, who was dressed as a Nazi soldier.
Nazis? I thought. But I'm Jewish!
I'd been conditioned to be especially susceptible to sexual thoughts on airplanes because on a previous flight I'd gotten into a discussion with an elderly woman who eventually confessed to engaging in sexual acts of an oral nature with her son-in-law to me. If that shattered-bone, old flamingo of a woman is swallowing her daughter's husband's cock on a regular basis, then this sticky fat woman next to me is party to some pretty bawdy aspects of sexuality for certain.
Formicophilia, I read. Sexual arousal to small creatures creeping on the body, especially around the genitals or anus. Small creatures like snails or ants.
That seemed likely for my tubby airplane friend. She already seemed slimy. Snail residue?
Now of course, I was dealing with the images of her slimy, naked body crawling with snails, her bush not actually a bush, but a swarm of hectic ants.
Two of the things that frighten me most in this world are snails and ants. And now this woman was permitting these horrible creatures to sexually stimulate her. In my imagination, obviously, but my imagination is powerful.
I thought about that scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Clarice is walking down what looked like a dungeon, where they kept the criminally insane. There's a man who tells her he can "smell her cunt" before eventually flinging his ejaculate on her face in a climactic moment (for him).
That scene was genius in that it is the most horrific thing I can imagine happening to me, short of finding myself in exactly this predicament plus something else terrible directly after. It is the thought I reference when I feel uncomfortable in any situation, therefore, general discomfort tends to leave me feeling oddly molested.
I was feeling molested. This woman could have told me she smelled my cunt while swatting me with a cup of semen and it wouldn't have seemed out of context. I was getting dizzy from the panic. At this point, I wanted nothing more than to have her suck her belly in and peel it from my skin so I could stop my brain from moving further in this direction.
And right then, she did just that. She leaned forward and tugged her stomach off of my body and began searching through her carry-on bag, which was at her feet.
Oh God, what's she looking for? I thought. What could this sick freak of a woman possibly be locating in her bag of tricks? What is she planning to do on this airplane?
She pulled out a bag of strawberries. She looked at me with huge, nice eyes and held the bag up, offering to share them with me.
Then I realized: she's a nice woman. She's not the problem. I am. I'm the sick freak. And she just wants to share her strawberries with me.
Epiphanies always seem to happen under stressful circumstances.