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Friday, July 3, 2009

They Didn’t Call My Bluff

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.


expateek said...

Wow, you've scared me, and I'm hundreds... I mean thousands of miles away.

darsden said...

LOL ..all in the power of the deliverance of the Words...oh Mighty lil one ;-) no doubt you could have kicked them all over the parking lot..NO, doubt!!

Kim said...

You rock!

C. Alderete said...

I would've punched your face...but not really.

Mandy_Fish said...

I'm a buddhist but I will kick ass if necessary. I once threatened a great big hillbilly of a woman at a Monkees concert when she was fucking with my older sister, who is not buddhist but is actually a pacifist.


And I have been in a fight. Okay, not since the sixth grade, but I could seriously kick ass. I don't think I've lost the ability. It's like bike riding, I suspect.

Kavi said...

30 years is a long time indeed. And 40 is a interesting time indeed. When old age not only arrives, it begins to show too. Esp in the mind !


@eloh said...

Ah, 40, the birthday you wake up blind as a bat.

When I first went into the Army, I could not believe the number of people who had never been "hit" not even once. I was very glad I used to get the crap beaten out of me on a regular basis, I knew that even broken bones heal without any medical help.

My "lack of fear" terrified the crap out of people...that's what did it for you and saving Steve's ass that day...the simple lack of fear.

Douglas said...

You qualify as an official "tough broad". If you will pardon the expression.

I have rarely been in a fight. And none since I was 15. A friend taught me a secret (one which you learned)...

Always be willing, and look eager, to get into a fight.

When a belligerent drunk would challenge me in a bar, I would simply smile and "let's do it."
Of course, keeping the full beer bottle close at hand in case he doesn't back down.

Anonymous said...

Wow - what a story! And hats off to you girl.. you were very brave that day!

Anonymous said...

That's great! And you proved that old chestnut - bullies are cowards who back down when challenged. Scary sure, but I bet you felt AWESOME afterwards. Plus for a girl you had enormous, globe-encompassing balls! :)

De Campo said...

A pacifist? You’re an errand girl, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill!

Our Pearl, the COL Kurtz of the blogosphere.

IB said...

I'm not pacifist either but if I was in a fight, I wouldn't mind having you along, just in case...

Anonymous said...

Come drinking with me Pearl?!

Irish Gumbo said...

Damn, woman...Remind me to never get your hackles up! I've done stuff like that, always wondered later just what in the hell I was thinking. Go, girl!

And Apocalypse Now disturbs you greatly? Darn. That's one of my top 3 favorite movies. I guess we can't go out now...

(but I'd love to know why it disturbs you - grin - have you read 'Heart of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad?)

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

You would have kicked the first one... hard... and hes partner would have ran.
Pretty much just like that.

Susan said...

I love you! And you skeer me!

Chris said...

Attitude and confidence is everything. Great job there, Pearl.

Pop and Ice said...

You're a great friend and I'm sure if you had to, you would have kicked their asses around the parking lot. Never underestimate the hurty value of being pummelled with a pointy high heel!

Ugich Konitari said...


I wish Minnesota had a medal. I'd recommend you highly for one. Congratulations...a visual of those guys flying across the parking lot , followed by your high-heel shoes, re-enforces my belief in Footwear weaponry. (So much more scope in parking lots than news conferences, ...)

MJenks said...

I'm one of those who isn't afraid to fight, but I will if I must. But, I must say, I do prefer the shaky adrenalin rush that one feels after the fight than the sore and bruised feeling that comes after being pummeled--win or lose--when being in a fight.

Jocelyn said...

I get your punch line and all (cuz you Hella Storyteller Lady), but my comment is serious:

Sweetheart, you'd have hammered on them, all claws and screeching and nut-shots. Yea, they'd have hurt you, too, but even with no experience, you'd have shocked the hell out of them.

Pearl said...

Expateek, I mean no harm. :-D

Dar, ahhh, I knew you believed in me!

Under the Influence, thank you!

C. Andres, it’s all in the delivery, isn’t it?

Mandy, I was in one semi-fight in fifth grade. A much larger girl threw me to the ground. :-D

Kavi, I will try to remember that, but I will probably forget!

@eloh, you have something there, I think. I had to jump in, and it didn’t occur to me until I turned to walk away. :-D Personally, I kinda like that about me!

Douglas, no offense taken at all. There was no way that these cretins were going to harangue my friend based on looks alone. (Not alone, anyway!) And yes, you are absolutely right about looking ready to do it. I think it’s the eye contact and sometimes, as you say, a smile on your face. “Let’s do it.” Of course in my case it helps to be female and on the small side – they just don’t know what to think. I might be nuts!

Ladyfi, thank you! Might’ve been bravery, might’ve been foolishness. :-D

Vegetable Assassin, thank you! I do remember those moments carrying me through the day.

De Campo, I’m underground, baby, mending for the revolution!

IB, rest assured that I’ve got your back. :-D

Greenfingers, absolutely. :-D Somewhere across the Atlantic, wasn’t it? I have possible travel to Brussels this fall…

IG, Heart of Darkness is on my to-read list! Apocalypse Now? I feel the same way seeing that as I do The Wall – there’s a level of introspective madness or depression or something (I’ve been drinking) that I can relate to. Eek. Does that make me sound weird?!

Cygnus, thank you, Cygnus. I suspect you are right.

Susan, oh, I’m not so skeery!!

Chris, thank you! Never short on attitude!

Pop and Ice, yep, after that it did seem to me that my neighbors looked at me a little differently!

Ugich Konitari, Oh, how I wish I’d made that connection! I had not thought of the correlation. :-D

Mjenks, I’ve never been punched or physically hurt on purpose by anyone. If it’s anything like that guy that punched his own windshield after a party down at the river, it can’t be pleasant. :-D

Pearl said...

Jocelyn, and you got that exactly right -- it would have been slapping and scratching and biting if they'd gotten close enough. :-D I don't pretend to know how to fight!

mapstew said...

I'm keeping YOU in my corner. xxx

Bevie said...

Except - it wasn't a bluff. You may have wound up losing the fight, but you would have fought.

The Retired One said...

That was AWESOME, Pearl.
I have a girl, non-lesbian crush on ya', I swear!

ICKY said...

The Dude: And, you know, he's got emotional problems, man.

Walter Sobchak: You mean... beyond pacifism?

LPC said...

Oh yes you have. Been in a fight. Punches aren't always thrown. Have you ever read What is the What?