Wednesday, March 15, 2023

What We Could

 I was sitting in the salon chair, hair wet, chatting. I thought I saw something outside, and I did a double take. Did I just see that? No, it couldn’t be. Then a woman who had gone to get cokes for the rest of the staff came running in. Holy shit, there’s a woman out there who is totally naked. Not a strip of clothes on. It’s cold outside! She’s not right, something’s not right. My stylist ran outside, joined by another woman from the shop. Three of us stayed inside, watching at the window. The women outside tried to talk to her, tried to cover her up with scarves, a coat, a salon cape. She kept walking back and forth. She was completely shaved, her entire body was clean. This was not a “street” person. She had wandered at least a few blocks like that. Where did she come from, we all asked each other. Then one of us said it: Who dropped her off there? Do you think there are other women where she came from?

Trafficking. Gang rape. Something horrific had happened to her.

The women didn’t want to call police, not knowing what would happen to her. I knew if nothing happened soon, we would have no choice. We could not handle this. She almost got violent with the women trying to help. She told them “I’ve seen evil.” When the police did finally arrive, it was female officers—someone must have tipped them off that sending men would be a mistake. She tried to hug one officer. Oh no, we shouted, you can’t touch a cop! But being naked, she clearly had no weapons on her body. An ambulance arrived to take her away. It was the best case scenario.

The women from the salon came back inside. They were all crying. I’ve seen a lot of shit here before but I’ve never seen anything like that. She looked comatose, or like she was having a seizure, but was still conscious. Where did she come from. Who did that to her.

And all the time, not a single man—not one, well, ok, one, offered to help. But he was black and she was white and the women told him no that’s ok we’ve got it and he left, relieved. A white man asked if “they needed his help.” My stylist well, it’s looked at him in disgust and said it’s not like we’ve got a PLAN. Do you have a plan?And he walked away. Every other man who passed either did nothing, or catcalled. Took pictures! Took videos! Shouted lewd things to her. Laughed in her face. Honked their horns.

They fucking took videos and pictures. I’m sure they posted them somewhere with their jokes. They let 3 women do everything.

What unbearable weakness.

And then I came home, to learn about something horrible that happened at my daughter’s high school, that involved boys mocking a gang rape survivor who was speaking to the school, both in person and on social media. The same boys who either are or are friends with other boys who have been accused of rape by girls at the school. Athletes. Assholes. You know the type. Nothing happens to them, none of them get punished. Shit, none of them even get kicked off the team. I remember that so, so well. IT continues. This time, the students, the girls, had had enough. They staged a huge protest. Hundreds of kids walked out. Some of the rapists and enablers joined the fray. Looks good on paper, I guess. Maybe the girlfriends give them points for showing up. But what else has happened? What consequences? How many boys will continue to do nothing in the face of unspeakable crimes, only to become men who do the same? Too many. So many.

It really never has been that no one believes us. It’s that no one gives a shit. Society teaches you how little you matter, and even if you don’t believe it, it makes it hard to like other people. Men especially.

Because they laugh, take videos, keep their heads down, mock you, threaten you, do nothing.

My stylist said one of the other women asked her, don’t you have a client? When she was outside and she immediately said, oh, she’s fine, she’s a mom, she wants me out here. That’s right, I told her, the three of you or the three of us, someone had to go to her and someone had to hold down the fort. You better not have been worried about me.

That naked woman disappeared into the anonymity of this city, just like where she came from, and likely where she’s going. But we tried. And an ambulance came.

We did what we could.


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