Friday, April 28, 2017

Revisionist History

     The incident from last week (when I lost my religion) reminded me of an essay I wrote in Costa Rica at the Writer's Retreat of San Buenas.  I know you've been made privy to all my musings and ponderings from that time, but this particular essay I hadn't yet shared as I wondered whether it was relevant.  I think it is.
     "I had relatively few bullies in my formative years, mostly The Dad.  There was one guy, however, in high school with whom I only had one interaction but it reverberated for most of my senior year.  I won't tell you his name, but will simply call him Football Player.  Football Player was much like The Dad; red-haired, almost my height and thickly built with muscle under a layer of fat.  He and I didn't move in the same social circles but were both in Nola Faye Boyd's Honors English class, although it was the only advanced class I remember us sharing. 
     The one incident happened the day we watched the film 'Romeo and Juliet'; the 1960s version.  After the brief nude scene (a very quick shot of Juliet's buttock), our class fairly buzzed due to this anomaly in a town akin to those in 1950s television shows.  I can't remember if his or my reaction to this scene started something or whether it was irrelevant, but toward the end of the class Football Player decided to engage with me. 
     Although I was an honor student and toed the line most every day, I liked to sit on the back row of class, just like a Baptist does in church.  Football Player sat across the aisle on my left.  Apropos of nothing he called me 'faggot' under his breath.  I chose to ignore the word, although it sliced through my chest like a rapier.  I consider this to be one of the most violent words; it's purpose always to wound.  Not getting his intended reaction, he said, again, more loudly, "Faggot!" 
     I half-heartedly told him to shut up as I was embarrassed and honestly not equipped for an altercation.  He just sat and glared at me.  Once class was over, he didn't seem to want to let it drop.  He said, "Faggot!" again as we stood to leave.  My best friend Paige, who sat in front of me, said to me, 'Ignore him", and to Football Player, she said, "Shut up!"
    As we left the aisles near the teacher's desk he walked over to me and backed me into the corner, poking me in the chest and said, "Say something, faggot!"
     I said, "Leave me alone!"
     One of my more unfortunate traits used to be when I got truly angry, I started to cry.  When Football Player jabbed me in the chest again, I was crying and not knowing what to do and without any fighting skills, I decided to remove the unpleasant situation from my immediate vicinity.  I yelled, and pushed him as hard as I could across the room into a row of desks by the classroom door.  He sat up, dazed and as surprised as I was.  I continued to cry.  Mrs. Boyd stood in the doorway in stunned silence. 
     Football Player stood on wobbly legs with the help of his girlfriend and limped from the room, looking at me in confusion.  My friends surrounded me and told me, when I was angry at myself for crying, "It's ok to cry."  Mrs. Boyd asked me how I was and I apologized for what happened and left the room.
    As the reality of what happened slowly sunk in, I walked somewhat proudly into the hallway.  I still couldn't believe what had happened.  As it does in most small schools, word traveled quickly and I heard the report of our 'fight'. 
     "Football Player made Dusty cry in Mrs. Boyd's class."  "Football Player made you cry?  Damn."
     When I protested that I had won the fight, the repeated response was, "You cried.  How can you say you won if you cried?"
     I guess sometimes losers get to re-write history if they are assumed to be winners.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Losing My Religion on the Sidewalk Yesterday


                Warning:  This particular posts has a couple of cuss words, but only for context.

Last night I experienced something I haven’t since I moved to Southern California, especially in the liberal bubble that is my neighborhood, Belmont Shore.  I experienced vehement anti-gay behavior and it was somewhat shocking.

                I needed to go to the bank and find something to eat for dinner so I set out for a nice walk down 2nd Street, which is the primary destination for everything you could possibly want from food, clothes and libations to jewelry, gifts and caffeinated beverages.  I adore my neighborhood and as usual it was just starting to get busy as it does around 5:30 pm; still early enough to snag a table for dinner without reservations.

                As I just returned from a week-long business trip and I hadn’t gotten my clothes from the dry cleaners, I was wearing one of the more sedate ensembles in my wardrobe – light blue Polo, navy chinos and, because I like a dash of style, two-toned navy wingtips with coordinated belt.  This is my version of blending in with the regular people. 

                I was headed toward the bank when I found myself behind a tall gentleman walking his dog; a terrier of some sort.  He abruptly stopped in front of Saint & Second, one of the restaurants with outdoor seating.  When he stopped suddenly, I attempted to step around him when his dog darted away from him and circled behind me, effectively wrapping the leash around my legs, causing me to trip and almost fall.  After I righted myself, I was still wrapped in the leash and I said, “Excuse me.”  He ignored me.

                I then attempted to step over the leash on his left but was unable.  I backed out of the way and attempted to go around him on his right, saying “Excuse me” once again.  When he again ignored me, I stepped beside him and saw he was petting someone else’s dog.  I said, “Can you please watch your dog.  He almost tripped me.”

                He replied, “Yeah right.”

                When I attempted to explain what happened, he suddenly straightened up, looked at me for the first time and said, “Fuck You Faggot!”

                My initial thought was, “This is the least gay outfit in my closet.”  I didn’t say anything out loud as I was too shocked.  He then proceeded to repeat this phrase and also included instructions on activities he felt I should engage in that Bill Clinton doesn’t count as sex.  And he repeated “Fuck You Faggot!” at least five or six more times.  My hands became clenched fists and I wanted to hit him but I didn’t want to go to jail or lose my job so I held back.  I would like to tell you I took the high road and simply walked away but I am embarrassed to say I replied, “Fuck you, asshole.  If you say faggot one more time I’m calling the police!” 

                I realize he did not see Jesus living in me in that moment, but what can I say?  I was angry.

                He walked away repeating the FUs, but removing ‘faggot’ and repeated it until he was far enough away where I no longer heard him.  I was so angry I didn’t really know what to do.  Thank goodness I have the little internal voice, which I assume in Jesus or my mother, who keeps me from fighting, but I understand now how easy it is to want to hit someone, and I have never picked a fight in my 46 years on this Earth. 

                Fight or flight is the animal reaction to a stressful situation but since I had neither fought nor flown, the natural adrenaline kept coursing through me for at least the next 20 minutes or so, keeping my heart rate elevated and driving me to buy and eat a gigantic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookie. 

I was troubled by the situation the rest of the night and even this morning.  I felt so helpless.  I couldn’t do anything about the situation.  I couldn’t stop him from saying what he said unless I was willing to break the law, which I am not.  I do however; have a better understanding of why and how activists are created.

                I share this, I suppose, to remind you hate is everywhere, even in liberal, multi-culti Southern California and it seems people are more comfortable than ever spewing their hate since November. It’s a crazy world, y’all.  And I guess that’s all I had to say.