Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

2:30 a.m.

As a six and a half foot male I’m not used to being concerned walking alone at night. I still remember the surprise of realizing how different that experience is for women; being constantly aware that every sound of footsteps could herald a rapist, that any shadow could be hiding one.

I get some of my best daydreaming done while walking alone (day or night). I shouldn’t, but I often openly listen to my I-pod, though I’m smart enough, for what it’s worth, not to wear both buds at night. Effectively though, I’m fucking oblivious. In Montreal I used to take shortcuts through dark alleys (woo Canada!).

For all that, last night was the first time I’ve ever been aggressively confronted at night, and funnily enough, I wasn’t alone. I was walking a friend (Deirdre of Papillon Rouge) home from another mutual friend’s appartment about 15 minutes away across the neighbourhood. I was walking my bike, intending to bike the rest of my home once I got her safely to her door.

I won’t go into the blow-by-blow. Deirdre has that covered here. The short version is that a dischevelled and greying, black crackhead pushing a grocery cart with, among other things, a giant piece of pink cat furniture in it started to hail us and then pursue us aggressively. Things got tense, he shoved Deirdre out of the way because he “wanted to talk to” me and she was yelling at him to back off. He grabbed my handlbars, either wanting to take my bike or wanting to hold it between us as a barrier (I’m thinking that’s pretty likely… he wasn’t a big guy and pretty clearly, in hindsight, didn’t have a weapon, and he must have known that he’d escalated things by pushing her). Deirdre, now behind him, kicked him hard in the leg, and he ran off, throwing a retreating punch behind him that caught her in the cheek. It was hard enough that it shook her up, but not so hard that it bruised. He grabbed his shopping cart and rattled fast off into the night.

I guess that was blow-by-blow. Anyway, I’m sorry that she took the worst of it (in all honesty, that’s not really true—homeless dude probably took the worst of it, Deirdre gave him a return parting shot in the back as he ran). What’s stuck with me though is that ridiculous pink piece of cat furniture.

Incidentally, on the different experience of being a woman, as Deirdre says, she had “imagined such situations a million times”—can’t relate… I mean, I’ve imagined being mugged before, but it’s always been more of an abstract musing.

I’m conflicted and feel a bit like I should have chased him. The code of chivalry is pretty clear on the issue of someone who hits a woman. At the same time he was so pathetic, running off, shouting indignantly about “the bitch.” And, running off, he didn’t really pose a threat anymore. For all of his indignity, that Deirdre gave him worse than he gave her obviously bruised his ego, which, thinking back on it, and despite the chauvinism that underlies it, was strikingly humanizing. The dude’s fucked up, in dirty clothes, hair and skin, pushing a shopping cart with junk and a huge pink piece of cat furniture in it, and drawling demands for money from strangers… yet he still has a sense that makes being hit by a woman humiliating to him. How sad is it that that’s what’s left of a human being’s pride?

Deirdre puts it very well:

In a way, I feel really sorry for that guy, running off alone into the night, hiding from police, with only his shopping cart and his useless cat furniture and his addled and broken mind, while I go home to my beautiful cozy apartment and my fuzzy and loving cat and my ivory-tower books, safely encased in my own white skin, not afraid to tell the police everything, even that I kicked him, because never in a million years would he have the capacity to press charges. Maybe I shouldn’t have kicked and hit him–poor, threatening homeless guy.

I don’t think she was wrong to meet force with force. It was self-defense, and adrenalyn. And it was good to show him that he couldn’t get away with that kind of aggression. But that doesn’t mean that there is—and in fact I think there shouldn’t be—any satisfaction in hurting the man.

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