Monday, October 31, 2011


It was almost midnight, and he had separated out the weakest link, gotten himself between her and the rest of our co-workers. He was bouncing and tall and I suspected he was on drugs because at that time of night, on that street, the only people who weren’t rushing home from work were rushing towards an altered state.

I looked to the men in our small group—yes, I am a feminist, but cultural conditioning is hard to beat, especially in the dark with the threat of the unknowably violent—and they looked down at their feet. To be fair, they were very small feet, attached to very small guys. And this stranger was very big.

I looked at all of us, and I stepped forward. I knew she had a boyfriend, I knew this stranger’s attention was unwanted and I knew we all had trains to catch. And I knew where his knees were.

I also knew that I wasn’t good enough at martial arts to physically stop him from harassing her without doing enough harm to him that the cops would want a word with me—I don’t know how to pull my punches or to hold somebody down gently who doesn’t want to stay down. And I decided that I would deal with that consequence, because she was weaker than me and he was stronger than her and that wasn’t right.

He had put himself between her and the rest of us, so the first thing I did was reach around and slowly—oh so painfully slowly—draw her back to us, to the safety of the group. The group that was now behind…me. 


And breathe.

And maybe he wasn’t as drugged up as I thought, because when I pulled her away and his roving eyes finally fixed on me, he said, “Oh.”

And I stood, knees loose, and waited. I couldn’t tell you if there was any traffic noise or if anyone was breathing heavily, all I knew was that my blood felt like bees were flying though it and I Knew Where His Knees Were.

He blinked, “Oh,” he said again, “I didn’t know she was with you.”

I had to think a minute, to remember how to speak, so little blood at that point was being allocated towards the higher orders of brain function. 

“Yeah,” I said.

“Oh,” he said… and turned around and walked away.

I don’t tell that story often. The witnesses retold it at work the next night, laughing about how he thought she and I were a lesbian couple. That wasn’t how I read it at all, though I laughed along with them. 

At the time, I thought he hadn’t realized that she had anyone who would fight for her or stand up for her, so he thought she was fair game.

Now, she didn’t fawn all over me or even speak to me much, I’m not sure she realized what I was prepared to do— she didn’t know where his knees were, that information would mean nothing to her. But I knew.

Not many times a middle class person in modern, civilized society gets to see what they would do in that sort of situation. At least, that’s what I thought.

But having done it once—having been tested once and finding that I have the power to protect someone else—I find myself in situation after situation where someone bigger and stronger takes advantage of their bigness and their strength.  I do what I can, I click and I forward and I call and I write. But for a very long time, I have been aware of so many things where I could not stop the strong from oppressing the weak no matter what I clicked or said or wrote. It has hurt my heart, yes, but it has also corroded my honor, my sense of self and my power.

…I am not a cop, and I don’t think I would be a good one. I am too suspicious of my ego and my passionate nature. But it wasn’t the part of the video up there addressed to cops that caught at my heart. It was the first bit, where he talked about warriors and honorable battles.

I have fought a thousand tiny battles all by myself. When I go to Liberty Square, and I see all those other people fighting their own ignorance, their own fear, building new windmills that don’t need to be tilted at… I cry. And one reason I cry is that it feels so good, to be surrounded by so much honor.

There is honor in this place. There is sweetness and there is pain and there is redemption.

There is honor in protecting this space, whether the physical concrete quadrangle between skyscrapers or the space in the heart.

There is honor in crying for it, for I have found that I am not fighting all these battles alone. 

We find our own glory, reflected in the hearts around us.

Thank you.

It has been an honor to serve you.

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