His eyes seemed to burn red and the skin of his sallow cheekbones flushed. The rasp of his ganja-burned vocal cords stabbed through the street of shops, like a dagger darting indiscriminately. His anger was for show, of course—a show of masculinity. A one-man parade of Darwin’s finest in the streets of Fort-de-France.
The cops sent from across the sea, les agents de médiation urbaine, came to relieve me from the man’s violent outburst. They were at ease, calm, gentle, accustomed.
Unlike me. All at once I wanted to cry and to laugh. It was startling. Abrupt. Ludicrous.
Three minutes before this moment, I was strong. Now I was reduced to a shrunken mass of nerves. Three minutes before, Jules and I strolled the shopping street, wandering aimlessly and joyfully and carelessly. Perhaps for a new top. Perhaps for a bottle of homemade rhum coco. We joked and giggled as girls far younger than us would have. Until two arms snaked themselves around each of our shoulders from behind.
The man had come silently and suddenly, his soft hiss muttering perverse sweet-nothings into our ears. How did this stranger think it acceptable to inch his twisting fingers around each of us and walk down the street as if we were lovers? My ferocity never permitted any dull submission to this kind of behavior. I stepped away. I said strongly, simply, “Non”. I shook my head, my face likely one of intense dislike—or disgust—because I wanted to say more than just “no”.
But I never managed to get another word out before he started screaming.
Tu ne peux pas t’habiller comme ça et ne pas vouloir qu’on te drague! KI SA? TU ES LAIDE! LAIDE! LAAAIIIDEE!
The words are empty. Funny, actually. It was his tone that frightened me to my core, like the roar of an aggressive animal mixed with nails down a chalkboard, screaming and screaming and screaming: you are uglyyyy!! And he wouldn’t stop. All passerby stood amazed. Police lumbered over towards the deranged man. Jules and I skittered into a nearby store, as if it were a refuge from the still-raging man outside. His yowl still resounds in my ears, even now. Its suddenness and sharpness had left me stock-still and breathless in surprise. What a scene he caused, stopping an entire street of pedestrians in their tracks, shooting poisoned arrows directly at me for all to see.
And all that for saying “no” to having a stranger’s arm around me.
How sad it is to be a woman! Nothing on earth is held so cheap…A hundred evils are heaped upon her.WOMAN by Fu Hsüan