Munir stood on the curb, facing Fifth Avenue with Central Park behind him. He unzipped his fly and tugged himself free. His reluctant member shriveled at the cold slap of the winter wind, as if shrinking from the sight of all these passing strangers.
At least he hoped they were strangers.
Please let no one who knows me pass by. Or, Allah forbid, a policeman.
He stretched its flabby length and urged his bladder to empty. That was what the madman had demanded of him, so that was what he had to do. He’d drunk two quarts of Gatorade in the past hour to ensure he’d be full to bursting, but he couldn’t go. His sphincter was clamped shut as tightly as his jaw.
Off to his right the light at the corner turned red and the traffic slowed to a stop. A woman in a cab glanced at him through her window and started when she saw how he was exposing himself. Her lips tightened and she shook her head in disgust as she turned away. He could almost read her mind: A guy in a suit exposing himself on Fifth Avenue—the world’s going to hell even faster than they say.
But it has become hell for me, Munir thought.
He saw her pull out a cell phone and punch in three numbers. That could only mean she was calling 911. But he had to stay and do this.
He closed his eyes to shut out the line of cars idling before him, tried to block out the tapping, scuffing footsteps of the shoppers and strollers on the sidewalk behind him as they hurried to and fro. But a child’s voice broke through.
“Look, Mommy. What’s that man—?”
“Don’t look, honey,” said a woman’s voice. “It’s just someone who’s not right in the head.”
Tears became a pressure behind Munir’s sealed eyelids. He bit back a sob of humiliation and tried to imagine himself in a private place, in his own bathroom, standing over the toilet. He forced himself to relax, and soon it came. As the warm liquid streamed out of him, the waiting sob burst free, propelled equally by shame and relief.
He did not have to shut off the flow. When he opened his eyes and saw the glistening, steaming puddle before him on the asphalt, saw the drivers and passengers and passersby staring, the stream dried up on its own.
I hope that is enough, he thought. Please let that be enough.
But he was not dealing with a sane man, and he had to please him. Please him or else . . .
He looked up and saw a young blond woman staring down at him from a third-floor window in a building across the street. Her repulsed expression mirrored his own feelings. Averting his eyes, he zipped up and fled down the sidewalk, all but tripping over his own feet as he ran.