I’ve never been a pacifist.
But I’ve known a couple.
Interesting breed, the true pacifist: they truly believe that things can be talked through; and while I believe that talking should be the first thing done, I also believe that some people not only don’t understand it, but that they’ll enjoy the fact that you won’t fight back.
Enter my friend Steve.
Steve and I have been friends for 30 years now. We’ve known each other for so long that, in a fit of brotherly love, we declared, at the ripe and drunken age of 21, that if we were not married by 40, we would marry each other.
Of course, on our 40th birthdays, we modified that to 80. No point in pushing that brotherly love thing.
Steve and I have shared living quarters – platonically – a number of times. The first time was in a two-bedroom apartment in Anoka, Minnesota (self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World”). It took a couple months to discover that not only was Anoka a rough-edged and intolerant little town but that we were the only ones in a complex of eight building actually paying for our apartment – everyone else was Section 8 recipients.
The living room overlooked the parking lot, a vista on to permanently parked cars on cinder blocks and small groups of people gathered around hibachi grills, quaffing one beer after another and crushing them against their foreheads.
And so it was, one afternoon, heading out the door to my second-shift job, that I looked out the living room window and saw Steve being pushed by two men, one vicious poke in the chest at a time, up against the brick apartment building on the other side of the parking lot.
Have I described Steve to you? At 5’10” and perhaps 150 pounds, he is a long-haired hippie-type, a mischievous man who once “punished” me for being crabby by holding me down and making me watch part of “Apocalypse Now” (a movie that disturbs me greatly), a man who has never been in a fight – no, let's be clear. Not a man who has never been in a fight, a man who won’t fight.
Steve is one of those rare individuals who truly believes in the Brotherhood of Man, a man who will give you his coat in cold weather, a man who would give you his last dollar.
In other words, Steve is bait for a certain kind of person.
So when I looked out the window and saw him, his hands up in supplication, his lips moving, talking while being pushed backwards, I knew that the two flannel-clad, “this-face-seats-one”-hatted men who had singled him out were having fun and were looking forward to hurting the hippie.
The next stop would be a fist fight – one that Steve would not take part in, even in self-defense.
I slipped my heels on and flew down the steps, out into the parking lot. Steve’s face changed from one trying to talk his way out of a fight to one of relief.
I was yelling angrily as I approached. “Hey! Hey! Get away from him!”
They stopped and turned.
“What’s it to you? Get outta here,” one of them said.
“What’s it to me? To me?! This guy won’t fight back, but I will. You want a fight? Huh? You want to pick on someone smaller than you? Well here I am.”
“You think I won’t hit a girl?
“Oh, I’m betting you will. Come on, asshole. I’m giving you one shot and then I’m gonna kick your ass from one end of this parking lot to another.”
It was quiet as Steve moved away from the wall.
“You ready?” I challenged. “’Cause your friend here is next.”
These poor guys. I could see that they weren’t very bright. I could see that I, in a skirt and a pair of heels, was confusing them.
“That’s what I thought,” I sneered. “Couple of pusses. Get out of here before I call the cops.”
“Steve,” I said. “Go on now.”
Steve walked, unchallenged, toward the house. “Thanks,” he whispered.
I turned back toward the two. “I’m going in the house,” I said. “If I see you back in this parking lot – ever – I’m calling the cops; and you’ll excuse me for saying so, but neither of you look like you want to talk to the police.”
I turned around, shaking with adrenalin and fear, and walked back to the apartment building; and in a show of foolish bravado specific to someone 24 years old, stubbornly kept my back to them.
When I got to my apartment and looked out the living room window, they were gone.
We laugh about it to this day, Steve and I, wondering what would’ve happened had one of them taken that free shot I had offered.
Because I’ve never been in a fight a day in my life.