Dad and I caught a ride to the airport from Mom around 9pm Tuesday. Her last words were, “Don’t kill each other!”
Popped two Benadryl, woke up in Chicago three hours later. There’s a two-hour layover (more sleeping), before we’re on our way to Boston.
Landed at 10am Wednesday. Caught the Silver Line to the Red Line Subway Station. Took forever to figure out which flipping platform to wait at. Dad wanted to find a Red Line train that was inbound to Alewife. We went up, down and over at least eight times in the stifling/muggy tunnels, soliciting help from no less than three strangers. Boarded one outbound train to Alewife, only to de-board and search for one that was inbound instead.
Dad was starting to have a major a conniption when I stopped to inspect the subway map. Turns out, the Red Line goes in three directions. Realized there is no possible way to be on an inbound train to Alewife from where we’re standing. Convinced Dad to take the next outbound train to Alewife.
Got off at Harvard Square. We burned one down and each had a scoop of ice cream, waiting for Dad’s friend Lenny to pick us up. Soon as it’s lit, a woman approached, looking bewildered.
She asked, “Is it legal now?”
“It’s legal where we’re from.”
Lenny’s house has a couple highly active bird feeders. A flash of red caught my eye. I’d never seen a cardinal before! There were also two fluffy cats and a small poodle named Tatanka, but the most famous critter at Lenny’s is Little Squirrel. They’ve been friends for three years, ever since Lenny found it (as an abandoned baby) in the street. Lenny’s even got a song about it! A major objective of this trip was getting an interview with Lenny & Little Squirrel.
Thursday afternoon, went with the whole crew – Lenny, his girlfriend Suzen, and my Dad, to the Museum of Fine Art. Dad thinks a few of my paintings would fit right in…
Later, determined to shoot pool, headed solo on foot, toward someplace with tables, three miles away. Straight shot. Halfway, came to a pub where a man was just coming outside to smoke.
He asked, “Are you hunting Pokemon?”
“I would never do that!”
“I wouldn’t either. Why don’t you come in and have a glass of wine.”
Stepped in to join Bob and his longtime friend, another guy (whose name I forgot immediately). Besides these two dudes, there’s a celebration in the tiny pub, at least a dozen happy people, all of whom wore Harvard pins. Somebody had a bottle of rum; everyone drank shots out of snow-cone cups. They poured me a double. Managed to choke down half before the pointy bottom of my paper cup dissolved and rum was dripping onto the floor. Tossed the rest in the trash, hoping to spare myself a rough morning.
Bob and his friend decided to join me on my pool mission. They brought me the rest of the way to Flat Top Johnny’s. I was on fire! Once I’d beat Bob (with five balls left on the table), he accused me of cheating and stormed out, leaving me to split the tab with his friend.
Moved on to another bar, where I became distinctly aware of a 5-star hottie playing shuffleboard. He said Portland is high on his list of places to visit… Once Mr. Dreamboat left, struck up a conversation with another dude who seemed interesting. (Deep into my third screwdriver, didn’t take much to amuse me by this time.)
Since the bar was closing soon, he asked if I wanted to check out his fancy hotel. Plenty of people think “going to the hotel” equals “having sex” but that, my friends, is not the way it works. In fact, when we left the bar, I hadn’t necessarily ruled out hooking up with the guy. But something I can’t quite articulate gave me a bad feeling. It had to do with him trying to rip off my clothes, despite me saying, “Stop.”
He tried to prevent me from leaving. He begged. He put on this dramatic act, like I was hurting him! His poor feelings! This was something he wanted so badly, it was cruel for me to go. Not hesitating, I split.
Taking a deep sigh of relief – I was free! He caught up to me outside. He was still calling after me as I walked away, thinking I would gladly walk ten miles not to spend another second with him.
Spent half an hour walking, eventually crossing a bridge from Boston back into Cambridge. At last, spotted a couple taxis. The drivers were standing there, chatting. They saw me making a beeline for them. Damn straight I wanted a ride.
Livid, here’s what I wrote during that journey:
Men can be so nasty
Why do I have to justify
When it’s time for me to go home
Why is this a negotiation
Why is this about you
How you feel
How you are lonely
How you want affection
Because yes, it’s better to walk home at 2am in an unknown city than to deal with someone guilt-tripping me for not wanting to take my clothes off, despite his personal assurance, “It’s a safe place.” It’s a nice hotel, he said, promising he’d be gone by 6am. He swore he wouldn’t try to push me around again. Again. I shouldn’t have to deal with this whatsoever.
When the fare reached ten dollars and we’re within a mile of home base, I asked the cabbie to let me out. Explained, I like walking and try to avoid spending more than ten bucks on a ride. He said, “It’s no problem,” and turned off the meter, insisting that he should drive me the rest of the way. When we arrived, after I’d spent most of the time making feverish notes on my phone, the cab driver professed his love for me and pleaded for me to stay with him! Are you fucking kidding me?
Friday, woke with a delayed-onset hangover. Went to the corner cafe for takeout. Ate half, then decided it was far too early to be up. Had a wee bit if a headache setting in… The next few hours were spent between the couch and the bathroom, where I got to enjoy my breakfast burrito all over again.
Mid-afternoon, Lenny tip-toed into the living room (where I was staying). In a soft voice, he gently informed me that Little Squirrel had arrived. Delighted, I threw the blanket off, jumped up to grab my camera and ran upstairs to the back patio. We got the interview! (More on that later.) This is when we discovered even the worst hangovers can be cured by squirrels.
Went to a Shabbat dinner with a handsome man. He had an impeccable dating resume: ivy league grad student, in the Air Force, active member of his religious organization.
It was my first Shabbat. There were songs and prayers in Yiddish, there was a ceremonial hand washing (three rinses each hand) and we had matzoh ball soup. After dinner, we wandered around town being romantic. He kept telling people absurd stories about us, as if we’re on our second honeymoon. Or, this is our anniversary. Then, in the middle of Cambridge Square, he spun me around like we’re dancing and pulled me in for a kiss.
“That could’ve been in a movie,” said some woman, we didn’t realize was watching.
In private, things progressed. Before I could stop him, he’d administered One Massive Hickey. WTF. Why is this a thing? I asked him several times to stop pinching, yanking my hair and chomping my ears/neck/lips. Don’t get me wrong – I like a little biting and hair pulling! But this fucking hurt. Clumps of hair were lost. I was left with bite marks and bruises. Painful to touch, for days.
At one point I said, “You are hurting me. Look, you even brought a tear to my eye.”
He replied with a question, “Are you going to survive?”
In the middle of all this, he kept telling me that I’m the most beautiful, brilliant woman in the world. Then, when he asked what I am afraid of, at first I didn’t respond. He repeated the question.
“I’m just afraid you’re going to hurt me again.”
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH OUR MEN? Please understand – I’m not saying all men are bad. There are two examples of men who I care for deeply, in this story! And I met several others along the way who were perfect gentlemen. What I can say is, despite how far we’ve come, how much progress has been made in the name of Global Feminism, FAR TOO MANY males are disrespectful and/or abusive toward women. Something must be happening to these people when they’re children, because by the time they’re adults, it is ingrained.
Don’t know a cure for Toxic Masculinity, but I DO know one thing – this applies to an entire spectrum of social ails (and it’s part of what compels me to write):
SILENCE IS COMPLACENCY; IF WE ARE COMPLACENT, WE ARE COMPLICIT.