Some high schools have swimming pools, some have great school spirit, yet others have bad reputations. My high school had none of these, but we did have something that was more unconventional. It was something that the school board wouldn’t want mentioned and it never appeared in any newsletters to parents. It could never be considered an asset, except by a wide stretch of the imagination. And even though it had long been a, albeit uninvited, part of the school, you won’t find any mention of it on the student run home page. Some saw it as a shameful secret. Others just thought it was funny.

“It,” more appropriately “he,” was a flasher. Our very own.

It was obvious why our school had been chosen by the flasher since it was, and still is, ideal from the perspective of any practicing exhibitionist. The school was located in a quiet, residential area, relatively far from main roads. It was atop a hill, the slope of which was forested and provided many hiding spaces should a chase ensue. The path, which most students used to reach the school from the subway or bus stop, wound through the forest, and was generally unwatched by authoritative eyes. Over and above all these factors, it was an all girls Catholic high school. What more could a flasher ask for than an isolated path to a building which held 800 adolescents clad in wholesome yet unwittingly seductive school girl uniforms?

Yes, my fellow students and I were blessed by the regular visits of a lone man in a trench coat, who was willing (and apparently eager) to give us our first glances at the male sexual organ. Needless to say, we did not view this as a service and, his regular visitations often caused more inconvenience than entertainment. The authorities that ruled our daily habits felt that the flasher was a threat to our safety and when he showed up they shut down our quickest route to transit, endearingly and simply referred to as the path.

Every year, his reappearance coincided with the coming of spring and when the announcement of a sighting inevitably came over the PA, we were silently grateful for it was a sign that the end of term, and start of summer holiday, was near. We often wondered if the flasher had any idea what a farce he had become in our young eyes. He might have been able to scare some of the younger students, but only for a while. It was part of the maturing process to realize and accept him as a harmless freak. In the decade he had been coming to the school, he had never harmed anyone or acted in an aggressive manner. In a bizarre twist of logic, this endeared him to us and he grew to be a part of school tradition even though an encounter with the flasher was a rare and special event.

I had the opportunity to see the flasher live and in person as I walked up the path to write my final, final exam. As I was trudging along I glanced up to see a man walking towards me. By his getup I knew instantly who he was and what he was going to do. This mysterious, aloof man had been the subject of many lunch time discussions and I thought of the things we’d rehearsed to say to him should the opportunity occur.

“That’s it?”
“I’ve seen bigger.”
“I’m not impressed.”

Armed and ready with these razor sharp and witty comments, I prepared for the meeting and thought about the report I would give my peers. My spine tingled with an anticipation mixed with fear.

“Hey, want some of this?” he said as he pulled it out from within the zipper of his pants. When a complete stranger invites you to a viewing of their most private body part, one can not help but have a quick look. Uniform or no uniform, I was not so innocent, and I was neither shocked nor curious.

I nervously nodded, as he passed by me, happily waving his flaccid member. I tried to look like I agreed, as if to say: yes, I confirm that is, indeed, a penis. I was afraid for a moment and then it was over. I felt relieved that I hadn’t provoked him with one of my stupid comebacks and, strangely enough, I also felt very lucky. I mean, I had never been flashed before, and in my teenage mind, the encounter was catalogued as a major and uncommon life experience.

My friends reactions were mixed. Some didn’t believe me, others, I could see, were somewhat envious, since they would never have the chance to see him. Someone said that I should make a report to the office, but there was no point. For one thing, he had been a regular visitor for over a decade and had never been apprehended and he was already long gone. More importantly, I wasn’t going to be the one to bring him down.

True, I should have considered him more dangerous than I did and looking back on my reactions then, I wonder where all my youthful arrogance (and stupidity) has gone. His sporadic presence did give us something that the cloistered and sheltered existence our parents and teachers tried to impose on us didn’t and couldn’t. And it was this lesson: the world is full of strange people who get off in strange ways.

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