I sat down at a sidewalk cafe today, popped open this laptop – ready to send some words to anyone who’s looking for perspective and support out there.
And just like clockwork, when I try to go anywhere or do anything as a woman by myself, I am interrupted.
I am just sitting here, trying to write you these words. I’m typing away. A shadow blocks out the sun above me. Someone is looming above. This is not the first time in a lifetime of men shaped looms.
“Excuse me miss. Hey miss.”
I keep typing.
“Yo ma. Ma… yo I’m trying to talk to you lady.”
I breathe. I keep doing what I’m doing.
“Yo BITCH! What the fuck! You must be some kind a bitch right? Sitting there.”
I remain unmoved.
“BITCH I’M TALKING TO YOU!”
He puts his phone on my table.
I see it. I see where this is going. I see it all.
I do the mental math.
I close my laptop. I set it aside.
I flip the table, forcing him to tumble back surprised.
I stand up.
I pause again.
I lock eyes with him.
I look at him and let him see how bored I am. I look at him like he’s an ant. I look at him like he’s obviously no match and he must have been tripping.
I say, “Say it again. No please, tell me again what a bitch I am. Let everyone here know just what a bitch I am so they can hear it and understand you fully that I’m a bitch. What else you got? Just ‘Bitch’? That’s it? What was next? Please oh please, don’t leave me hanging, I’ve been waiting all day for you to interrupt my meal and piss all over me so you can get what YOU need today. Oh hey! Maybe if you say ‘bitch’ some more, maybe just maybe, the people sitting all around me, – no, shrinking all around me while pretending this isn’t happening – maybe one of these nice people will get up and come to my aid or something. I dunno? Sounds crazy right? Why don’t you just call me crazy bitch too, for thinking someone here might care more about a woman’s safety right now than their own pasta.”
No one moves. Still. All of them. Of course. Same as it ever was.
He darts for his phone at my feet.
I push him back. My two hands. On his shoulders. I push him back like we are at the line of scrimmage. That’s what that’s called, right? Football is weird. But now I’m a football player.
He tumbles back again. This has clearly never happened to him before.
He tries again for the phone.
I step on it. Not enough to hurt it, of course. Just lightly enough to say, “Nah, that’s my phone now.”
I cock my head, motioning him up the block; or else.
I calmly and quietly pack up my things. I swing my bag over my shoulder. Same as it ever was. I mean, no one at this restaurant seems mildly concerned about my condition, so why should I be.
The waiter shuffles just inside my periphery, to dip his toe in: “Ma’am, your sangria?” – looking to me to make this nice.
“Ma’am, ummm…. are you okay?” Says the patron next to me, suddenly leaping into action now that the action is clearly over.
“Who me? Yes, I AM okay, thanks to your help! Wow, you really took action there, huh? I hope you’re all happy with your choices here today. I hope you’re all knocking back that beer extra hard murmuring ‘oh gee, this Kavanaugh thing… isn’t there anything we can do?!?’ Newsflash my friends, you just missed your chance. You just didn’t ‘do’ anything. So I thank you all.”
I wink at them.
I eye my harasser shuffling along one block up, turning the corner.
That’s right, I follow him.
I follow him for a bit.
I follow my harasser some more.
I see him realize I am following him.
I follow him past all the other women who he would’ve tried this on, but is now too busy trying to get away from me.
I watch him awkwardly strategize for many blocks. Change tactics, and wonder who he can ask for help. But he won’t, cause he’s a man. So…
I follow him through 6 Lanes of Canal Street/ Holland Tunnel traffic in both directions.
I keep coming, kinda like it’s Terminator III.
He ducks into a Dunkin’ Donuts, and hides like a child under the window counter.
I stop right outside the store, stand just over him, and stare.
I wonder, how odd, to hide beyond a window, like I can’t see him. Ha!
I stare at him some more.
I stare at him some more.
I stare at him till he stops panicking long enough to realize there’s no way out until I give it him.
I breathe some more.
I light my cigarette.
I take a puff.
I take another.
I shake my head and laugh.
I walk on.
I release him.
I release him.
– – – – – – – –
If you came here looking for hope, I’m not sure I have it. No, I definitely don’t have it. All I have is my survivor’s strength to share, and my continued commitment to transparency where you are all concerned.
I don’t want to give you hope. I want you to wake the fuck up.
I’m telling every single one of you who have been too blah blah blah to believe me, support me, or fight with me – The age of your ignorance needs to end today.
The age where you birth your daughters into a system of violence, and quietly escape to the suburbs as though that will keep them safe, but it will only really stifle their screams just enough so that you can sleep through their torture – The age of your indifference ends today.
The age where you birth your sons into a system that rapes and pillages the generation after you, just as you have, and you find yourself defending a monster because you see a little Kavanaugh in your precious boy king – The age of your convenience ends today.
I do blame you. I do. I’ve been out ringing all the alarms. I’ve been out here weeding out all the weeds, and holding the line so it can inch no further. I’ve been out here defending myself, and defending you too.
And for the life of me, I keep scratching my head knowing you all have children and grandchildren of your own by now and I don’t know what the fuck you are going to do. What you think they are going to do. They are not safe from this. No, not from this – The age where you can hide this from them is over. Heck, the age where you can hide them FROM this is over.
As many of you know, I run Town Stages. That means lots of people in and out, day in and day out. Lot’s of conversations amongst friends, and even more conversations amongst strangers.
If I had a nickel for every seemly nice guy who’s tried to mack on me this week by saying, “So… this Kavanaugh thing, huh?”
And I just stare back. I figure it’s their turn to make this nice.
And they go, “Well, I mean… do you think there is any… absolutely any chance that he didn’t do it? Like what if….. I mean, there’s very little evidence and I was wondering like what if… ”
And I stop him there. I try to help him out. I try to take his side.
“Bro – Humor me. Imagine you were overcome by a bunch of piss drunk men, half suffocated, and brought to the point of ‘about to be raped’, if not actually raped in this manner as so very many women are. Think about it for a sec. Would you tell anyone? How would the people around you act if you said you had been raped? Would your family believe you? Would your job believe you? Would the WHOLE WORLD believe you? Are you prepared to be the laughing stock of every where you go for the rest of your life just to stop one man from having a job? Tell me – Is there a world in which YOU would make this up knowing it would pretty much end your life as you currently know it? And if you actually worked up the courage to tell your story, what would you do if some guy like you, no, millions of guys like you were standing here going ARE YOU SURE???”
He says, “oh…. I …shit. Yeah…. But wait, were the guys that raped me gay or straight.”
I stare back. I blink once, very slowly.
He knows he’s an idiot. He admits he’s an idiot. He just needed a sec.
“Well the thing is, women don’t get a sec when they are being sexually assaulted.”
He stands there quietly.
I stand there quietly.
He tries to change topics, says “Hey… Nice place. You work here?”
“I built it.”
He looks at me.
He looks down.
“Yeah. You weren’t expecting that either, were you….”
He stands there quietly.
And maybe he was thinking, what a bitch.
But what if he was thinking: Holy shit. I’ve gotta get my shit together.
And that’s all I want, men. Get your shit together.
I suppose my open letter for people who like open letters in dark times even though it’s always been a dark time for the people who actually build America, is this: You just pissed off one of the fiercest bitches to ever walk this earth and you still haven’t thought this though. Be afraid. Be very afraid. You left me and my friends with nothing to lose when you had everything to lose. Bad plan. Very bad.