I have seldom been so angry, felt so violent, came so close to running home to get my bike and find the ingrate who decided to ruin my night and go ruin his night. Or week. Or life. Or whatever.
I was walking home after a tough conversation with a friend, and it was early, around midnight. I wanted to clear my head, and did not want to deal with talking to a taxi driver about where I was from or who I lived with here in Santiago. It certainly wasn’t the three dollars I was going to save that made me not take a taxi, and instead walk from near San Diego over to Barrio Brasil, where I live.
Barrio Brasil is not particularly unsafe. I know the routes I can take into and out of my neighborhood with relative certainty. I live between two major conduits (one more major than the other), and I always say I’ll never walk in from the Alameda (the more major one) to where I live because it’s too easy for someone to observe you and follow you in. And once you’re in, there’s no one unless you’re near a bar, and even then, you can’t really rely on those people for backup.
I found myself walking along a street I always say never to walk along at night, Manuel Rodriguez. It’s a wide street, with traffic, but it has people coming off a highway (the PanAmerican highway), and they’re not looking at the sidewalks, and you can’t see from one side of the street to the other because of the highway exits. It is lined by a bunch of hourly motels, and not much else. There’s not a lot of activity on the street, and it curves, so there’s also not a good visual on the whole trajectory. I was walking along, headed north when I noticed I was closing in fast on the guy ahead of me, who was certainly dragging his feet. I didn’t want to get in front of him, becasue I didn’t want him behind me. So I slowed. And slowed.
He could tell that I’d slowed down, and slowed more, finally leaning against a sapling to cough. The cough was fake, like a child who was trying to stay home from school. Cof, cof. And I knew it. I could tell he was going to mess with me. But if I turned around, he’d catch me. And if I went straight ahead, he’d catch me. But straight ahead was home, so I went for it.
I broke out into a run, and hadn’t gone more than twenty paces when I felt his hand. His hand. His hand on a part of my US-brand rose-colored courdoroy pants that was not his to touch. And I screamed, and flew into a rage.
I think I elbowed him, I may have also punched him. I know I grabbed his headphones, spun him around, tore them off his head and also ended up with his MP3 player. I must have kept running. Or he ran away, because when I turned back, his MP3 player and headphones in my hand, he was far from me. Far enough that I shouted, spat a stream of invectives at him to make sure he and anyone nearby heard. I yelled about what he had in his pants in the area that corresponded to where he’d grabbed me. I told him he was useless, feeble, a loser. I insulted his mother. And then I said, “Y te tengo el MP3” (and I have your MP3 player), which I dangled in front of him (from a distance). And he looked at me, and said nothing.
(I imagined him thinking) How could it be? A woman, a foreigner. So strong, so reactive, so over-reactive, so clearly nutso. And I threw his MP3 to the ground and smashed it. And I ran.
And I ran, and cried, and sobbed and cried. Because I hated that I knew I shouldn’t have been where I was and I hate the fact that a misguided, misanthropic, misogynistic loser could muck up my night and my week. And then I cried because of how angry I felt, and thought better of grabbing my bike, and pedaling slowly through the streets, finding him and menacing him with my heavy kryptonite lock, and maybe listening to it make contact with his skull.
It would have been premeditated and cruel, violent and uncontrolled. None of which I think applies to me. But if you grab my ass in the street, I’m just saying. “Me buscaste, y me encontraste.” (You asked for it.)
And in the time that’s followed, I’ve thought about all of it.
What if he had had a knife? What if he had had a gun? I assume he’d have threatened me with those things. I hope I would have had a more reasoned reaction, but I can’t say I would have. Was he after money, or is he a mauler? I think neither. I think he was a person who saw a possible victim, and he wanted to make me mad. It worked. I wasn’t even carrying a purse, or my camera, which surely I’d have used as a very pricey weapon.
And now I spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder and making sure I don’t go anywhere I “shouldn’t” at night. I’ve been one nervous nellie since this happened (10 days ago). I like to think wherever this lump of a human is, he’s giving his ways a second thought as well.
And I also kind of wish I’d kept his MP3 player. On the one hand, what kind of music does a pretend-coughing groper listen to? On the other hand, maybe he had a file or two on there that could have helped me to find him. I couldn’t identify him in a line-up, but I bet he could identify me. And I hope he starts to see me everywhere.