Friday, January 27, 2012

Lowlives and Hotsprings

A final blow to the head and he’s out cold, face down, a string of drool seeping from his cracked, nicotine-stained lips. And I did it. I warned him, leave me alone. But he didn't listen.

He should have listened.

When we arrive at the hot springs in the Nevada desert, we’re dusty and tired. My friend Amanda, her teenage daughter, and I had planned this 6-hour road trip months ago. Recovering from a particularly crushing break-up, I felt emotionally vacant, like a hollowed out building. This hot spring will be my rebirth, my scalding hot baptism.

When we complete the mile-long trek to the hot spring, I drop by backpack and gasp. What beauty. Several large hot spring pools, right next to one another. And what a view. Yes! This will do the trick.

There are a few others in the pools but no matter. Of course, I want the springs entirely to my friends and myself, others needed their spiritual cleansing too. We'll share the experience together.

My friend and her daughter quickly undress and make their way into the fizzy magical waters. I take my time. With each article of clothing I drop, I let go of another emotional weight.

When I finally place my foot in the hot liquid, I feel instantly transformed, as if the magic flew through my feet and up my naked body. As I submerge, it’s all I can do not to cry. The goodness hurts my poor, aching heart. I close my eyes and let the healing begin.

Then I hear him and his gruff asthmatic laugh.

I slowly open my eyes and see a man on the other side of the pool, staring at me in that unwanted, lascivious way.
No, no...not this now. Please, God, not this now.

I return his stare aggressively. But he won’t be dissuaded. I can’t let him ruin this for me. Closing my eyes again, I try desperately to block him out, but every time I open them, his eyes burn my flesh and soul.

"Hey, can you stop staring at me?"


"I said stop staring at me."

"Fuck you. I'll look at what I want. It’s a free world."
Trouble in paradise. I look over at my friend and her daughter. Their look of relaxation has quickly turned into concern.

"It's just rude and I'm trying to relax."

"That's your problem."

"She's got a hot body, man. I can't help it," he jokingly tells his beer-drinking buddy next to him.

What a scrawny fuck of a man. Yellowed teeth in a broken face, greasy hair, swollen red eyes. The smell of stale cigarette smoke and cheap booze drift my way.
I approximate his size so I can make my decision. He’s only an inch or two smaller than me. This guy is an easy takedown, especially because he’s drunk.
I'm a woman who studies fighting. My years in martial arts have taught me to spar me all different types and sizes.
For years I've countered the argument that a woman can never beat a man in any physical altercation. Because I have. But obviously, many factors come into play.

The most pressing concern is size. If a man is much bigger than me, then sure, there's a good chance he'll beat me. But if a man is my size or smaller, then the odds shift. After years of fighting in competitions, I stand a better chance than most.

I can take him. I’ll destroy him.
In my mind, when I go back in time, that’s exactly what I do. I put on my clothes and heavy hiking boots on and kick his ass resoundingly. He’s left lying facedown in a puddle of his own blood and spit while I grab my friends and leave.

But I can't go back. And that's not what happened.
Instead, I went to an adjacent pool, fumed quietly, and died a little death.

If life were fair, that little runt of a methhead is dead, rotting in a worm-ridden cardboard box somewhere. If life were fair, men would realize that unwanted stares can feel as invasive as an unwanted touch.
Those stares weren't sexual; they were an act of dominance and aggression. He spat on my spirit during a time when I desperately needed the world to envelop and comfort me.
One man's desire to “eat his candy” trumped another woman's need for peace of mind. And it's a spiritual crime, one that can't be undone, ever.
Oh, you did the right thing, everyone says. You should just walk away. Fuck the right thing. Because I still live with that experience. I should have kicked his ass or died trying…and I regret it.
But there was no justice that day. There was no cleansing, no baptism. Just more soul death.

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