That Time I Got Violent…

I haven’t written about my early years on the streets for a while, but this story came up last night…

Back in 1999 I was living in a 21 foot trailer in a junk yard in Ballard/Seattle with a bunch of strippers, tweakers, and alcoholics. Now, I’ve never been a violent person, but one night as I was walking in the yard with one of the strippers–who was also pregnant–the Manager of the property suddenly hauled off and decked her out of the blue. She hit the ground hard.

I grabbed him, trying to immobilize his arms from behind. The move didn’t work like I had it in my mind. Maybe it would have worked if he had resisted, but he went all limp and flaccid in my arms, staring at me with dead fish eyes. He wriggled out of my grasp and ran to his room in the warehouse with me hot on his heels. He barely squeezed in the door shutting it hard on my leather clad arm, until I had to pull out and  let the door close. I tried to kick down the door, only to be restrained by the “music producer”/pimp who lived downstairs. I almost kicked him in the balls in frustration, but managed to calm down as four or five people restrained me.

I never did find out what that incident was all about, except that the stripper said he was always peaking at her through a hole in the wall of the shower and she told him to stop (possibly forcefully). She was okay, and continued to live there, but I had to leave shortly after that.

I moved into a four-foot tall nook in the basement of a hippy house off of University Ave.  A year later I ran into the stripper’s boyfriend, and he gave us some bizarre story of her giving birth alone with him in a canyon during a flood while he was tripping on acid. He seemed fuzzy on the whereabouts and status of both his girlfriend and their child.

I’m a really non-violent person, but if you beat a woman in front of me I will fuck you up.

The Myth of the Lesbian Avenger

The most shocking thing about the domestic violence that I witnessed and tried to stop last Saturday was the fact that it happened right in front of Dyke Night at a Lesbian-Owned Club. I guess their main concern was just getting the drama off of their door-step, but still…I’ve always thought that if any woman was abused by a man even near a dyke, she would rise-up, like a Lesbian Avenger and bash him down, not coax the woman into her abuser’s car.

How did I get this view? When I was a kid my Mom took me NEWMR, a lesbian music festival. For three days I was surrounded by women of every shape and size rock’n to woman-centric folk, rock and jazz. This weekend was the only time that my over-protective mom gave me free range to wander without supervision. When I got too old for the day care, I would roam through the woods and up and down dealers row learning the features of blue lace agate and tigers eye, and being given small presents by indulgent craftswomen.

Every thing there was dyke this, and dyke that. I didn’t learn that dyke was considered an insult until I got an alarmed response on my third grade essay about “What I Did This Summer.” Dykes were cool, butch, amazonian women who wandered around in leopard print scarves and not much else and chased away any men who tried to get in with baseball bats.

As I got older, I learned not to talk about dykes, but my gut feeling that they were cool, strong women who wouldn’t let no woman take no shit persisted. As a pre-teen I watched a bull dyke intercept a punch meant for a guy’s girlfriend in a hotel lobby. I remember thinking; wow, that woman wouldn’t take no shit, was not afraid to step in to stop a man from hitting a woman.

I will never forget, as a teenager, taking the T to an Ani DiFranco concert. My mom was worried about me by myself downtown, but as I washed towards the concert hall in a sea of beautiful strong women, I felt safe.

This time, when the chips were down, and a woman was being abused, the dyke who stopped it (at least temporarily) was me. I should have decked him.

The Bystander

Last weekend I went dancing. I walked into the bar, trying not to feel intimidated by the crushing press of women around me. It was Dyke Night at the Milky Way in JP. I pushed to the small room where women were dancing. Sure, I’d rather dance to funk, or some live rock, but I can get down to the top 40s if that’s what’s on. I danced until I was exhausted, sweat dripping down my back.

I ventured outside, where the air was wild with the proximity of a hurricane. Desultory rain drops cooled my face as I walked up the block and back. As I approached the front of the club, I saw something that made me do a double-take: A well muscled man had his arm around a slender woman’s neck, squeezing tight as her face turned red.

I looked around. Five or six people including the bouncer stood watching. Uh uh, no way! I thought, as I ran to the overhang.

“What are you doing?!” I yelled, and he instantly let go of his choke hold. The woman sagged in his arms, sobbing and gasping.

“Stay out of it, she’s his boyfriend!” Yelled a woman from the sidelines. Galvanized into action, the bouncer grabbed the woman, holding her up and immobilized against the wall.

“What do you need?” I asked, putting my hand over hers on the wall.

“Stay out of it.” The bouncer said. Now from her boyfriend dominating her, he was. At least he wasn’t hurting her. “What’s going on?” He asked her ‘friends.’

“She’s really drunk and he’s her boyfriend. He’s driving her home.” Opined one of the bystanders.

“So they came here together?” He asked. A bull dyke who I believe is one of the owners came up, supporting the woman from behind as she wailed and sobbed.

“I know her.” She said.

“What do you want?” He asked. “Do you want to go home with him?” She sobbed incoherently.

“Help me! Help me! ” She pleaded.

“How can we help you?” The woman holding her asked. The slender brunette staggered in her arms, sobbing drunkenly.

“She came here with her boyfriend. She needs to go home with him.” Put in a bystander.

“You don’t have to.” I said. “Do you want a taxi home? You don’t have to let him abuse you.”

“He wasn’t abusing her. He’s her boyfriend!” She said scornfully. “They’ve been together for like a year!”

“I was with my abusive boyfriend for more than a year!” Her eyes widened.

In the end they calmed her down and talked her into going home with her boyfriend. Her boyfiend, who had been silent during much of this, pitched in by threatening to have her committed if she didn’t go with him. I tried to stand up for her, but I was too outnumbered. All these people claimed to know her, claimed to be her friend, but they just stood there as she was being choked and then sent her home with her attacker.

As she got back into the car I went in the club. I felt shaken, but I wanted to say goodbye to some friends before going home. Somehow I didn’t feel like dancing anymore. A thin woman with shoulder length dirty blond hair walked up to me.

“Is that woman alright?” She asked. I explained what happened. “I’m a social worker. I got there when you did. I saw him choking her. I wanted to tell her I would pay for her to get a cab home!”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked, even one more person might have tipped the balance.

“Well, you were there.”

White Fear

So I was driving yesterday through a nice “upper-middle class” neighborhood, and my eyes locked on the eyes of a very scary dude talking on his cell phone. Why was he scary? Because he was over six feet tall and heavy set? Because he was black in a predominantly white neighborhood?  No, he was scary because he looked like my ex boyfriend.  You know, the one who used to push me around in front of the kids? Who told my mom that he cheated on me, and made my friends think I was crazy?  The one who grabbed the wheel and steered my car into a canyon, and then threatened to cut himself and blame me if I reported it?

Our eyes locked and I could feel the adrenaline race through my body as I searched for a hint of recognition. Same broad, thick forehead, same wild eyes with the epicampic folds. A little heavy–but he could have gained weight. A little darker–but then he darkened in the sun. I’m almost past him when I decide that, no, it can’t be him. He didn’t recognize me.

Whoever it was, with that moment of terror filled eye contact I have reinforced every stereotype this guy has probably ever heard about white people. I wanted to stop and jump out of the car and apologize, or at least explain.  In thirty seconds I went from happy to terrified because I thought I saw someone I haven’t seen in five years, and this guy, he got the fall out. I’m sure he’ll chalk it all up to white fear.