Home > Hesitating > Anonymity Intact…

Anonymity Intact…

Somewhere in the popular consciousness resides an idyllic paradise segmented by the white picket fences of yore… Sunday BBQ’s under warm blue skies, milk delivered to your doorstep by smiling, white-capped, fresh-faced men and hamburgers cost a quarter down at the drugstore… Everything was clean, people didn’t bear children out of wedlock and pop would build the most amazing tree house out in the back yard… If you happened to find yourself sharing the corner with a frail old woman you would offer her assistance in crossing the street– of course she would accept… You shoulder her groceries and take her free hand, leading her gently as she tells you what a nice young man you are and, probably, she’ll offer you a shiny nickel once you reach the other side… No, you couldn’t accept…

Walking home the other night down a dark side street, overgrown trees blocking the orange glow of streetlights, I watched a woman carrying bags struggling to unlock the gate to her apartment building… My impusle was to approach and offer help, to take a bag so that she could open the gate and the door, or maybe I’ll hold the gate so she can handle the door… As I grew closer and pictured this my thoughts were savaged by another image: startling her outside her home on a dark and quiet street offering to hold her belongings so that she could unlock the gate and door to her quiet house– me, cast in shadow, a stranger, a man, alone with her in the dark… At best she would jump at the sudden sound of my voice, laugh nervously that I had surprised her and offer an embarassed apology before explaining that, no thanks, she’s fine, she’s okay, she’s got in under control… The whole while, through the pounding pulse, she’s begging for me to leave, to leave her alone… I leave her alone, walking quietly past so as not to disturb or startle, and she continued her laborious effort to reach the sanctity of home…

The next night the movie was in reruns as I walked home from work, although I felt a little better avoiding the situation since she was gabbing on her cell phone… But the same impulse strikes everytime I see a woman similarly burdened, or trying to navigate a child down steps with her hands full or break a stroller down to put int he trunk of her car… Ignoring them makes me feel like an asshole but I’m scared of coming off as a creep or a pervert… I’ve offered help before and been told rather cooly that my assistance is not required– anytime I’ve ever stopped to pick up anything that’s been dropped I always feel like I’m under suspicion as I hand it back… On the street women glance at me before quickly jerking their gaze away as I notice them and I feel like I’m being sized up as a threat…

Worse yet is that it would be stupid of a woman to hand me her bag, to turn her back on me and unlock the door to her house… Anytime people see the news and a report comes on of a woman attacked everyone shakes their head– what was she thinking walking alone at night?  What was she thinking letting him help her carry bags into her house?  We’ve given a reason to fear and shake our heads when they don’t bow to it… Spitboy released a slew of records all about it…

So what happened to our milkmen and our BBQ’s and old ladies dishing out nickels on every corner to a horde of do-right boyscouts? As much as a myth those days must have been there had to be a validating aspect, just as our modern myth of a violent society, of Abel Ferrara, has its merits… No more borrowing the lawnmower from next door– I don’t even talk to mine… We shush each other at the top of the stairs as we hear them climbing, waiting until they disappear into their apartment before sneaking down, anonymity intact… The one time I was in my downstairs neighbor’s apartment eating cupcakes I swear to god that everytime I looked back at her from observing the artwork and bric a brac she was watching how my shoulders were set, sizing me up… I left as quickly and no doubt as awkwardly as I could…

Categories: Hesitating
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