I honestly have no idea what made me think of this out of the blue the other day… but I had a really strong reaction to it and wanted to talk to you about it.
It was the summer of 1999, I think, and you and I were living together in Plymouth at the time. A few co-workers of mine, sisters, had invited me out for a fun night of dinner, karaoke and some drinks. I met them at their place and we all rode to the bar together in one car; we met another couple there, a husband and wife, who were close friends of my co-workers and a few more people from work came to join us, too. The early part of the evening was pretty fun as I recall laughing a lot and getting a lot of silly singing in at karaoke.
The mood began to change for me when at the bar the husband of their friend started paying a little too much attention to me. It started out with just asking a lot of questions and wanting to talk to me a bit more than I was comfortable with. Then an occasional wink or something. Then the “accidental” touch on my leg. I wasn’t comfortable so I chose a seat at the other end of the table to avoid him. He casually drifted around the table until he found himself sitting next to me again and then came another hand resting on my thigh. I was terrified as this was a man I did not know and was not comfortable with as I could see he was heavily intoxicated and I honestly didn’t know how to handle it so I just… well, tried to avoid him best I could until the night was over.
But the night wouldn’t be over for a very long time. When the bar closed up, the creep and his wife, too drunk to notice all the advances he’d been making at me, invited the rest of us onto their boat docked outside for another beer. Though I’d stopped drinking hours earlier (to keep a clear head about myself given the circumstances) I went with the group as I was 20 miles from home and they were my ride; no one seemed to notice what was happening nor did I feel comfortable “making a scene.” I just wanted to get through the night and go home. I found a comfortable spot on the boat opposite from where he was seated in hopes he would stay over there. Within a few minutes I turned to see he had moved and taken the seat next to me and again attempted to place his hand on my leg. I moved his hand away and walked to the other end of the boat. He stayed seated but his gaze continued to follow me like a fucking predator. It was clear he was drunk so my friends did the responsible thing by taking is boat keys away and offering them a ride back into town with us.
It was a crowded car but he made sure to sit directly behind me as I sat paralyzed in the front passenger seat. We had barely pulled away from the parking lot when I felt something brush up against my right breast; upon looking down and pulling away I could see that he had stretched his leg out and it was his foot that had been rubbing up against me. I recoiled and shifted uncomfortably in my seat for the next several miles until they stopped for gas. I jumped at the chance to get out of the car and go inside with them. Yet I never said a word… I just wanted to go home.
We got back in the car and instead of going home they thought it would be a good idea to stop at a party at a friend’s place on the way back. Things were a little rowdy for my taste so in true Laura fashion I found my way to the back yard to play with the dog away from the drunken shenanigans. As I was sitting on the edge of the deck petting the dog, the creep came outside and sat right next to me, attempting to flirt and placing his hand on my thigh. I moved away yet again to avoid the unwanted attention and touching. It didn’t matter where I went that night– he was always following close behind me to continue his advances. Yet still I was too scared to do anything. I just wanted to GO HOME.
Finally they were ready to leave the party. We all loaded into the car when suddenly the creep’s wife began to feel sick. She burst out of the car and ran to prop herself up against a tree and proceeded to vomit. My co-worker’s husband followed her to check on her; he simply placed a hand on her back as he leaned in to ask if she was alright. The creep, seeing this, absolutely lost his shit and proceeded to physically assault the man trying to help his wife. I guess what’s good for the goose isn’t so much for the gander as he’d been making moves on me all night but had a complete psychotic meltdown that someone would have the nerve to lay a hand, though a kind and well-intended one, on his wife. The men stood there pummeling one another on the front lawn for a few minutes until they could finally be separated and calmed down enough to get back into the car. Huge mistake. Finally, when we were only 3 blocks from getting back to my car they began fighting again… in the moving car, this time. There was a whole lot of swearing and punching and there was blood. My friend pulled the car over… I jumped immediately and began to run. I wanted to put as much distance between me and that awful man and what was happening at that moment. I got about a block away when I heard my friend screaming, “Call 911! Call 911!” Never in my life had I ever had to call 911 and after what I’d seen of the fight I didn’t even hesitate to dial and I’ll never forget the terror in her voice as she screamed at me from a block away to call for help.
I informed the 911 operator of our location and they told me a police car was close by and would be there shortly. Just after I’d hung up, my friend came running up to me saying, “never mind– don’t call, just hang up.” But she had blood on her face and her shirt, it was obvious I made the right choice. I told her it’s too late, the police are already on their way. It didn’t take long for them to get there and sort things out and take the creep and his wife somewhere else. When it was clear I was no longer needed to answer any questions I headed for my car. As soon as I found myself alone on the short drive back home to our apartment, I absolutely LOST it. I just started sobbing and sobbing until I nearly choked. I was so scared. And so angry! I was mad that the creep thought he had the right to keep touching me though it was very clear I was uncomfortable and doing everything in my power to just get away from him. I was mad at my friends for not noticing all of his unwanted advances and for not getting me home earlier. I was mad at them men for fighting and hurting one another and I was especially mad that the creep thought it was OK to keep touching me. But, most of all, I was maniacally angry at MYSELF for not doing. a. fucking. thing.
It was a full-on “fight or flight” scenario and I absolutely froze. I’ve always had such an intensely visceral reaction to unwanted contact whether directed at me or even just seeing it happen to someone else. That night was like one of those nightmares you have where you are trying to scream or flee from an attacker and yet you find yourself unable to make a sound and your legs unable to move.
When I got back to the apartment it had to be close to 4:00 in the morning. I was shaking like a leaf and crying and could barely get the keys in the lock. I had woken you from your sleep with all of my commotion trying to get in so when I finally got inside you were running towards the door and immediately asked me what happened. I distinctly remember breathlessly talking you through the events of the night before collapsing into your arms for a great, big hug as I continued to sob.
We didn’t hug often… but that was one of the most comforting hugs I’ve ever had in my life. You were always so protective of me, even though I was older. I always kind of thought of you as my “protector” because you always were wiser, more “together” and certainly were much stronger. Like I said, I don’t know what made me think of that the other day but I felt like writing you about it… at the very least to thank you for that wonderfully comforting hug on one of the worst nights I’d had up to that point in my life.
As long as I have you… I just remembered that tomorrow is Barry Manilow’s birthday. You used to tease me relentlessly about being a “Fanilow!” I remember one year at this time I stopped into what used to be Braschler’s bakery to pick up a cake and you came inside with me. When they brought the cake out to me and opened the box you saw the palm tree frosting with the word “Copacabana” underneath it and the words “Happy Birthday, Barry” splayed across it you were embarrassed and mortified. You said, “You seriously bought a birthday cake for Barry Manilow’s birthday??” Haaa! I told you, “Of course, I did. He’s the man. And I just really will use any excuse to eat cake.” I do remember you enjoying some of that cake, too… so you got over it quickly enough.
Anyhooooo…. missing you a lot, dude. Having a lot of trouble believing this October will be 5 years since you’ve been gone. You should still be here for more hugs.