If any woman, anywhere in the world, hears footfalls behind her on a darkened street, she has reason to be afraid. Robin Morgan called that the democracy of fear under patriarchy. – Derrick Jensen
Lona is becoming a woman, and my motherly friend has been instructing her in all the necessary things. Make up, clothes, how to walk, how to talk, all those little things. It’s been two months since she started taking estrogen, though the testosterone has been blocked for over a year, and my motherly friend is worried that Lona is going to get hurt. It’s dangerous to be a woman in this world, more dangerous to be a trans woman, and Lona is going to start dating soon. Our motherly friend wants me to scare her and make violence seem real to her, because Lona has honestly had this story book privileged, protected life.
Okay, I agree. Lona and I are standing near the door, her back is to the wall. Okay, I tell her. Say we are standing here like this, and we’re kissing. Do you see what situation your in?
She looks around, looks down at my hands, her hands. No, she doesn’t see.
Okay. I grab her, push her into the wall, hand at her throat. Now do you see?
She blinks and bursts into tears. I’m sorry. She says she knows she has to learn this, has to feel in her body the possibility of violence because she’s never considered it before. Men don’t have to, you know. I feel like I’m violating her, destroying her innocence, but it does seem necessary.
It’s good, Lona says. We are good and she learns so much from us.Â Women need this too, she says, because you just don’t grow up expecting violence.
So we do it again. We trade places. I show her how to break thumbs, smash noses, kick, duck, throw.
We do it on the couch. We do it on the bed. We do it on the floor. We do it until I can pin her to the bed in sex position and she can throw me off, and our motherly friend smiles and pronounces that Lona is now prepared to be a woman.
The next day I take Her to the bay. She wants to say goodbye to the ocean. We fine a nice pull off, and I help Her down the steep rocky hill to a place where She can sit.
A car comes screeching off the freeway and a man jumps out of the drivers seat, runs around and yanks the back door open. He leans in and starts screaming and yelling, his shiny baggy shirt straining across his ass every time he inhales to yell again.
She hands me a frappacino bottle out of her purse, and I grab it by the neck really good.
Open it, She says. Don’t fight with it, open it.
He stands up, slams the door hard, opens it, slams it, opens it, slams it. She stares, and I tell Her to turn Her face to me and just look with Her eyes. Never good to stare at violent people. My phone and all my weapons are in the van, and I can’t leave Her to run up there.
He is leaning in, yelling again, calling someone a fucking bitch, moving his arms around. Is he hitting someone? Or is he moving things around?
There was a time when I carried a gun just for these kinds of situations, when I was young and traumatised and trigger happy. That didn’t work out so well, so I tried the opposite, being an advocate in courts and other safe places, but that had very little actual affect. So here I am, somewhere in between, sunset on the side of a deserted highway, frozen on the sidelines.
He’s big enough that I probably couldn’t take him. In public, I always say something. I think we have a responsibility to mirror reality to people who might not know that abuse is wrong. But it is sunset on the side of a deserted highway, and I’m frozen. I’m afraid to walk away from Her. She’s so delicate.
He slams the door a last time and turns to walk around to his side of the car. I watch. A woman jumps out of the car and tries to run, but she didn’t wait long enough. He turns and catches her full frontally and tries to shove her back in the car.
I’m going to go get my phone, I tell Her, because I think in the heat of this struggle he won’t be distracted by Her sitting here on the rocks. She pulls a phone out of her purse. Magic.
I dial 911, and get a recording. All their operators are busy, the next available operator will be with you shortly.
The woman’s broken away now, but he has her by the arms. Could you call the cops? she yells at us. I have the phone hidden on the other side of my head. I don’t want him to know and come down here, but then she breaks away from him and runs to us, him chasing behind. The phone is still on hold with 911. I drop it on the inside of Her coat where he won’t see it and stand to meet them, to get between Her and him.
She, being wise, picks up the phone and hobbles along the shore. I am chest to chest with a big man, his finger in my chest, yelling at me that I don’t know what the fuck is going on. My back is to the cliff. I step sideways, between him and her, and he doesn’t close the space. He’s young.
Look, I tell him, I don’t care what’s going on here, but you are behaving veryÂ aggressively and I’d like you to step back out of my space.
(I learned that phrasingÂ from my fundamentalist Christian ex cop friend.Â It’s a strange friendship, but we’ve loved each other for way too long to stop now.)
Oh, I see how it is, he says. I see how it fucking is. Fucking bitches. I’ll fucking leave you here.
She’s brave and quiet and she says Leave, I’ll find a ride.
He runs up the cliff, jumps in his car, and speeds off.
Okay, I tell her, we’re gonna stand here and count to thirty and then we’re going to run and hide you in the back of my van. And we do. She hops up in my bed and exclaims that she’s been living in a car too, with that guy.
By then She has hobbled back up the beach and has the 911 people on the phone. The reception sucks, though, so she gives the phone to me. I don’t have any better luck, and we get disconnected. The 911 lady is smart enough to call us back, though, and She explains the entire situation. Then she argues with the 911 lady, who seems to not care now that no one is in danger.
“Look,” she says, “this girls is, how old are you honey? This girl is nineteen and she looks like a model and SOMEBODY needs to be concerned for her welfare.” She’s good like that.
Then She hangs up and instructs the girl in saving her own life. This is what She does, and She’s good at it, alternating between extreme sympathy and straight up reality. Look, she says, you can’t just put up with this kind of behavior. You will end up dead.
Oh, the woman says, I’m not putting up with it. We’re in Counseling.
Honey, I say, when someone behaves like that you don’t talk about it. You leave.
We stop at a grocery store and sit, circle wise, on the pavement. They chainsmoke, I collect the butts, and we have a little two woman intervention.
By the time the cop comes she knows more about domestic violence than most DV counselors. We have a group hug and she says thanks. She says it’s good to have advice from older woman in how to be a woman.
I want to tell her that being a woman does not mean getting beat up, but it might not be true in this world so I just wish her good luck and drive away.