A notebook entry.
This notebook entry was written as part of Project 1,825 Things.
Years ago I tried to go and see an acupuncturist in Brooklyn. One day when I was there, for my second appointment, he left the room and came back in with no shirt on. I was already in a bra and underwear only, lying on the table, so that he’d be able to tap the tiny needles into my skin. He left to get something, and then came back, shirtless. He was wearing no shirt, but he did have on a little leather vest, and maybe he’d already had on leather pants, too. I don’t remember.
Why don’t we get up and leave in these circumstances? Women, I mean. What evolutionary reaction do women possess, do I possess, such that when a man starts crossing social boundaries, we are more likely to freeze than do almost anything else? What did we gain by learning this behavior over the years, the centuries, the millennia? What did we avoid? Who am I kidding, I already know what we avoided. To anger the male of the species so often feels like the most dangerous choice to make.
I once went to a wedding in New Jersey. A friend from college was getting married at her aunt’s house, and it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to in my life. Like, it’s not even close. It was like a really comfortable house party that started in the afternoon and went into the night, and everyone there was happy. There were no decorations, but a big table covered in massive amounts of homemade food. The bride, my friend, was from Pakistan. The groom was from Jamaica. There were many aunts. They had the ceremony on the grass in the backyard, and the bride came out in a white and gold sari, beaming. Afterwards she changed into jeans and a black halter top and we all danced in the living room with the couches pushed up against the walls and the lights turned down, playing songs we liked on CDs, like we were back in college. We ate the food. We all sat on the floor and different people sang. It was beautiful. It ended late, and I and another woman I’d just met that night, I’ll call her Mina, were offered a ride back to Brooklyn by another guest, a man, some cousin or the friend of a cousin. He had a drunk friend with him, a tall lanky man from Pakistan in slacks and a black silk shirt, who was buckled into the front seat, already snoring. We realized too late, after getting in the car, that the driver was drunk too.
He began to drive erratically, dangerously, almost at once. He swerved to avoid another vehicle and made a U-turn over a median planted with grass and flowers. The curb screeched in warning as it scraped against the underside of his expensive car. The lanky man in the front seat lurched, unconscious, against the seat belt. In moments we had left the residential streets behind and were headed to the big roads.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Mina said, not loudly, more to herself than to anyone else.
“I think—” I began, but he cut me off.
“Relax!” he snapped, loudly. “I’m a great driver, I know what I’m doing.” He swerved between lanes just to prove it, and sped up. Drivers honked. When he realized he was going the wrong way again, he said shit out loud, then took another illegal U-turn over a median, crossing four lanes of traffic to do so, probably leaving tire marks. It was like being inside the game Mario Kart, and any minute we might go flying off the road. It was Saturday night. It was a warm Saturday night in New Jersey, in June. Mina was petite, with smooth dark hair and a pretty, serious face. She worked at a bank, or maybe a law firm, somewhere like that. She and I both reached out towards one another in the dark of the back seat, at the same time, tentatively, practically strangers, and when our hands met, we held on.
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