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    I Just Wanted a Spicy Chicken Sandwich to Go

    Last Thursday night, I counted my change and decided to go out to the all-night chicken place and get a spicy chicken sandwich.  I was hungry and didn’t have anything in the house that I wanted or felt like preparing.  It was a warm night and I dared call it spring. Two days later the winter coats were back on, but who knew.  So I was feeling pretty okay, glad to have enough money for the sandwich, glad to have places in the neighborhood that are open all night, and very glad that it was warm out. 
    When I left the store with my sandwich to go, my stomach was so ready and my mouth was watering at the thought of it.  There were people out as there usually are.  One man was walking his dog.  I looked at the dog and the man said hello like he knew me.  I looked at him, and he seemed vaguely familiar.  I couldn’t place him though.  Soft-spoken yet assertive.  Younger than me, maybe 30s.  Tall, husky.  Indian-looking.  I felt cautious.  Then I thought that maybe it is a dog-owner thing and he’s seen me over the years with my dog.  So I said hello back to him.  But my tone and face were more wary than friendly.

    “Do you want to make money?” he asked.
    Then I remembered why he looked familiar.  This creep once approached me a couple of years ago to have sex for money.  He had approached me then too like he knew me.  It scared me and shocked me.  It had been a bright sunny afternoon.  It was his way of doing it – with such ease like it was normal – that made me feel frightened.  For a flash, I felt like I wasn’t in America.  Though I am a grown woman, the incident brought me down that day.  I remember going pale.  I remember burning inside.  I felt so taken aback.  What an assumption – that I’m an item for sale.  And that was with a winter coat on.  It just amazes me that cultures who treat women like that even survive when we all come from a woman.  I have enough trouble with where we are at in NYC.  I have no tolerance to be treated any worse.  I’m aiming for better, not worse.

    It brought me back to the first time I was sexually harassed on the street.  I was about ten years old and with my Grandma, for God’s sake.  We were coming from a clinic at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital for my broken finger when a grown man with dark skin and an accent got in my personal space and said, “Pretty girl” in a sinister tone.  I burst into tears.  It scared the shit out of me.  I don’t know what culture he was from, but he too seemed like he felt totally okay about his behavior to a child.  He did it in front of my Grandma.  He was not ashamed. 
    That is what I find so frightening – the idea that this is okay, normal, expected. 

    “No!” I answered loudly.  I’d rather roll pennies, refund cans and bottles, ask a bodega for credit, borrow from a friend, or go to sleep hungry.  Those things I know from experience I can survive.
    The mother fucker was not easily discouraged.  This is what freaked me out last time.  He just goes right on, in his soft-spoken way, trying to convince.*  At least that is what the tone sounds like.  I barely heard the words.  But unfortunately for me and my thin-skinned self, I did hear “blow job.”  Nausea kicked in.  Fury filled my veins.  Images invaded my head.  I felt the need to boil my mouth.  I knew that was the end of being able to eat my sandwich.  Even though we were yards apart, I felt assaulted and so disrespected.  I did not want him to think I was afraid of him, and I did not want to just quietly go home with nausea.  I didn’t want to feel like I did at ten and burst into tears.  I told myself, you are not ten.  You have a voice.  Use it.  Under it all, he is scared of you.  That is why a young guy would need to buy a woman instead of getting to know a woman.  He is scared of you.  I summoned up a deep and loud voice.

    “I DON’T WANT YOU TO TALK TO ME!”
    He had the nerve to say, “Okay, goodnight.” 

    In his head, we might be engaged.  And that is why I will stock up on pepper spray. 

     

     

     


    *In light of the decade-long horror in Cleveland, I wondered if this soft-spoken scuzzball managed to convince some young girls to go home with him to make money, and I wondered if indeed some missing Bronx girls crossed his path. 
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  2. 7 comments:

    1. Rhonda said...

      Sorry you had to have your evening ruined with that encounter. We must always be on guard. Even wearing a winter coat or walking with Grandma...

    2. Rhonda, I should pull a sword out from a sheath (?) and say just that: "On Guard!" But I think I'm more of a pepper spray gal in a situation like this where he didn't physically touch me unless we count nausea.

    3. Jack Cooper said...

      I've long been contemplating the race-change, but maybe I should do the sex- as well ...

    4. Stay a good man, Jack. That is more powerful.

    5. Lisa Harmon said...

      Scary. I was spoken to like that at the age of 12 and I was alone on the street. Pedophiles and predators are everywhere, and women get blamed for being "crazy" but its not easy since men are not marked which ones are ok and which are predators.

    6. Thanks, people, for reading, relating, responding.

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