It’s no big secret that I’m a cuddler. If there is one thing I am looking forward to in July (one thing amongst MANY things), it’s getting the chance to cuddle with Terra. And we are sharing a room! A room where we will both be intoxicated. That means either some hot and heavy action, or taking turns throwing up. Either way, we’ll be doing it TOGETHER. I love her, I cannot wait to blubber all over her in the airport (because you KNOW there will be tears) and I’m excited to have her guest post for me. Being published in the newspaper and she still has words for this place? She rocks.
When I was four, something happened in a bathroom with an 11-year old boy that my brain has nearly completely blocked out. I know the results involved a beating of my defender and a lack of further invitation to the home.
When I was ten, a man who lived in the low-income apartment across the playground from my own low-income apartment tried to convince me and at least one other girl to come up the stairs to his suite. The term “rosebudding” came up in the conversation and my manner of reporting this heinous exchange was to ask my dad, after I ran home, what the term meant, tattling on the man who’d said it. My father stormed out, then came home a short while later, washed his hands, changed his clothes and called the cops. A little girl, I’d find out later, had been raped in that playground only a little while before then. I can only assume that my dad instituted some vigilante justice, it was never discussed again, and I wasn’t allowed to play there, anymore.
When I was 13, a man handed me my third glass of champagne of the afternoon, put a $20 on the table in front of my skinny knees and asked if he could touch me.
Last week, I was walking down the sidewalk with my daughter, when a familiar feeling crept up my neck.
Looking across the street, I saw a man walking, to cross in front of on-coming traffic, and his eyes were magnetized on Isobel. We were going to the rec centre – her to the afternoon playgroup, while I went to the gym. It was a sunny day and I was already dressed for my run, while she had picked out a princess-worthy dress, cardigan and wore sneakers, bare-footed. her bangs were pinned off to the side of her face and she looked like a little doll.
My kid is kind of beautiful, when we clean her up. I admit it, even if I’m supposed to biasedly think she’s beautiful all the time, that some times it’s a lot easier to see the bags under her eyes, the bangs in need of a trim and the hands that have been stained with mud. But when we clean her up? People stop and stare.
It’s annoyed the shit out of my for about 27 months. She’s not quite three yet, so you do the math. People have always stopped and stared, often cooing and awingat her. I’m not bragging, this shit’s gotta stop. When a heavy-tourism area receives a lot of Asian traffic, a bunch of senior citizen groups and conventioneers, a lot of whom seem to fall in love with a blonde haired, blue eyed living doll? Cameras get pulled out, she gets confused by accents talking at her, and it takes us twice as long to get from point A to B.
Fuck off, people, seriously. But that’s relatively okay. It’s even nice a lot of the time, especially when compliments on her beauty are followed with “she looks just like her mom.” *ahem*
What is intolerable is when some fuckwad crosses the street into oncoming traffic, seemingly hypnotized by the imagery of my kid. When, after he narrowly avoids being run over, after car horns have blared and her attention has been drawn to him, and she’s asking “what’s the man doin’, mama?” he still stands on the street. When he doesn’t even stop to close his fucking mouth and step onto the sidewalk, because he’s so busy unblinkingly looking at her.
I didn’t exist. I wasn’t holding her hand, there was no cars about to break his bones, or other people on the sidewalk with us, noticing him noticing her. The woman that stood beside Isobel and I as we waited for the crosswalk light to change was brushed past, once he finally walked forward. Directly toward her.
“Hi, Sweetheart,” he said when he was about five steps away. The fucker wasn’t blinking, still. Just Staring.
And her back was immediately tense. She didn’t answer him, didn’t wave, and I didn’t remind her that not responding when someone says hello is rude. But yet, he kept walking toward her.
“Hi, honey. What’s your name?” he breathed that one out.
Seriously? What fucking universe is this man from, wherein he thinks that looking at my daughter in a way that makes her either dinner, porn, or a circus sideshow.
I’ve never felt so violated as the moment when he got one step away from our side and he knelt down.
“Hello. How are you?”
And he reached out to brush her hair out of her face.
She gripped my hand harder, I swear. And I pulled the fiercest voice out of my head possible as I said “Do not touch my daughter.”
The light changed and we ran across the street without me even needing to ask her to hurry. Half a block later, she asked me again, looking back over her shoulder, what the man was doing. As I weighed how to answer her, I looked back, too. And saw him still standing on that same corner, staring in her direction.
I have never had instinct speak so sharply to me as when I felt the creep up my neck. I’ve never put thought into who might be in my neighbourhood, assuming that if she was with me, she would always be safe from anyone who might want to harm her.
And I’ve never immediately judged someone as a pedophile before. This instinct to protect her from this man was so strong, I’m 99% sure of it.
For all I know, this man has lost a daughter, she died or was kidnapped, and Isobel is the spitting image of his own. His pain hasn’t receded, or it just has, and then he saw her and it was like seeing his past. Maybe that’s the hopeful person inside of me, who wants to believe that everyone has good intentions and actions. Maybe that’s the supposed-to-be-multiple-timed mother in me, that saw his look of breathlessness and could, days later, attribute it to having the air sucked out of him by grief.
Those are maybes.
I know exactly who I would have been, if his fingers had actually graced her hair. A wild fucking banshee, intent on ripping his eyes out, if I hadn’t accidentally pushed him into oncoming traffic. Someone willing to turn Isobels’ back to me, place her hand in the one of the woman standing next to us, and deliver a hip-dislocated kick to his balls. One who would spit on him and he writhed in pain on the ground as I dialled the police.
What would you have done or thought?