Friday, October 31, 2008

In which I go to the parade

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31:  Parade goers dressed a...Image by Getty Images via Daylife In 2005, I attended the Village Halloween Parade as a class assignment. This is not the official article I turned in.

We were packed a little too close for comfort – or chastity, for that matter. Darkness and masks kept things fairly anonymous.

This was to be expected at the Village Halloween Parade.

“Excuse me!” screamed a man as he shoved his way through the crowd, muttering under his breath when the people around him would not give way. Police officers – some real, other perhaps not – used their authority to cut across the street.

At 5 foot 2, I knew the only way I would be able to see anything would be to wear the highest heels I own. That’s exactly what I did, but a life in sneakers left my ankles a little weaker than is ideal for the boots I had chosen. Between that and the jostling of the crowd, I managed to lose my balance.

The man who caught me was very nice, setting me upright and asking if I was all ok. I responded honestly with a smile and a thank you.

Nearby, two girls were talking. “I would have grabbed his balls if I were you!” one instructed the other, her voice taking on an angry edge. Some pervert had rubbed up against her, I figured.

The crowd pressed in, and the helpful man was pushed against me. I was poked from one side; the woman to my right had a handbag that was pressing against me.The woman left soon, and then so did the group to my left. The crowd shifted to account for the change in available space. The man behind me did not take advantage of the space next to him. I wondered if he noticed, and wished I had access to it. I was blocked off.

I felt another poke. The woman with the handbag was long gone by now, so I half-concluded, half-hoped that it was the man’s hip. I shifted away when I could, and he shifted right after me. Everyone was filling in what little space was available, so I accepted it, even when I realized it was not, in fact, his hip. A straight man pressing against a woman sometimes has certain reactions. I reasoned that it was natural, and probably very embarrassing for him. Accidental gropings are a fact of tight crowds. I was annoyed, but perhaps a
little amused. This would make for quite a story when I went to the bar later that night, I decided.

Even so, I tried to inch away. The man in front of me noticed that I was a bit uncomfortable. “Are you all right?” he asked, looking mildly concerned. Once again I smiled and said thank you.

The man behind me began moving. At first I thought it was more crowd-related shifting. Then, I noticed a rhythm that accompanied the poking. I decided to ask the man in front of me for help, planning to simply say that the man behind me was making me uncomfortable, and could we maybe switch spots? But before I could say anything, the man left.

“Are you ok?” the man behind me asked.

“Yeah,” I snapped, turning around to see if I could recognize any identifying features. All I caught was a racial description and a hat. I tried to slip into the spot the other man had just vacated, but I was followed.

There were hands on me. First my hips, then my waist. Again, in a crowd, accidental gropings happen. I glanced behind me again, but got no more information. The police, about ten officers a few yards away, could not see me, and I knew if I made a fuss, they would not hear me, either. I would have been more likely to anger the man behind me. Also, I was still not entirely convinced that anything was actually happening; If I don’t believe it, I reasoned, How can I expect the police to?

I steeled myself to endure it until I got an out. Every few minutes, groups were sent across the street, so I resolved to join one.

The hands were moving, and they definitely belonged to the man behind me. I tried to make myself trip again, hoping that maybe I would fall and in the process push him away. It did not work.

His hands slipped under the jacket of my suit, touching skin.

I grabbed the hem of the suit and tugged down, snatching the fabric out of his hands and allowing no space between it and my body.

I then turned.

I have no idea how I pushed out of the crowd, but I did. I briefly considered walking a few blocks to another corner, now that I was away, but before I could reach a conclusion, someone bumped into me. Pressure, on my back, right where the man had been rubbing against me. I turned around, frightened, expecting to see him.

It was someone else. Different race, no hat, very confused-looking. I choked back the tears that had just started and ran as quickly as I could on a crowded sidewalk while wearing those damned boots.

My instinct was not to call my mother or my boyfriend. All I could think was, Damn it! I don’t have enough information for a story. That, and, So I fail. There’s no way I’m going back.

The good

Well, in the end my professor told me that the above was well written -- that it made him very uncomfortable, which was a sign of talent. If it made you uncomfortable, I'm very sorry -- it could have been much worse, and for far too many women, and men, it is.

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