Saturday, February 25, 2012

Around the World: Survival Instinct

February 25, 1992

This post is dedicated to the all the women who are survivors of violence.

The Tower of Cairo has stunning views of the city and the Nile. Sabina and I are off in search of this popular city landmark.

It's easy enough to find the Nile, but finding a bridge to get to the other side, where the tower is located, is another matter. I ask a young man walking the opposite way if we are headed the right way to the nearest bridge.

Photo courtesy of PlanetWare

"You are going to the Tower of Cairo? They will charge you more because you are tourist. Let me buy your entry ticket. I am Egyptian, I will get it for much less than you pay."

We both decline, after all, he was going the opposite way. "Please," he insists, "I am a student. I would love to show you something in Cairo."

Along the way, he tells us the Tower of Cairo is a popular spot for marriage proposals, with it's romantic view of the city. He pays for our tickets and will not accept our money to repay him. He accompanies us to the viewing area at the top where there is a restaurant. We offer to buy him a drink to repay his generosity.

Sabina and I sit opposite each other in a booth, and the man sits beside me. He wants to know where we are from and what of Cairo we have seen. He reaches past me for the salt on the table. As he pulls it back, his arm brushes over my chest.

I give him a disapproving look. "Sorry, so sorry," he says. He is still saying sorry as he tries to put the salt back. I put one arm between my chest and his arm, and take the salt from him with the other, successfully blocking his second attempt.

The view from the Tower of Cairo.

Sabina is looking at the map. "Oh, you have to see this place," he says pretending to point to the map. He reaches too far, and brushes his hand over her chest. "Sorry, so sorry." She gives him a forgiving smile. She looks at me concerned and understands my 'what-the-hell' expression. This guy wants something he's just not going to get.

"Well, it has been a pleasure meeting you," Sabina says, packing up the map.

I stand and encourage him to move so I can get out of the booth. "Thanks for getting us Egyptian prices, but we really have to be going."

He rides the elevator down with us. At the entrance, we say goodbye and abruptly walk away.

Walking at a brisk pace, we discuss what a creep he was and give him a few choice nicknames. I check behind us and discover we are being followed. I tell Sabina, suggesting we stop and pretend to look distracted.  Perhaps he is just going the same direction we are, but we agree it would be best to give him the chance to get ahead of us.

That plan backfires.  He walks right up to us, greeting us with, "Sorry, so sorry."  We make it quite clear that he is not welcome and should leave. He approaches Sabina, still apologizing, and puts both hands on each of her breasts. Sabina pushes him off and turns her back to him.  She is visibly shaken, so I position myself between the creep and Sabina and brace myself to push him away hard. I'm telling him to get the f#ck lost when, suddenly, his hand is between my legs.

If I had time to make a fist, I fear I would have seriously hurt him. What happened next was completely automatic. My arm forced my cupped hand into the side of his head with such force, it knocked him to the ground several feet away from me. When the vision enclosing rage cleared, I see he is trying to get back up on his feet.

I am, by no means, a fighter. I have been described as a toothpick in over sized clothing, hardly a sight that would put fear in anyone. Here I am the one standing over this despicable low-life. My reaction is fueled by fear, anger and disgust. If he gets up on his feet, anything can happen, none of it good for me.

"Sorry, so sorry," he pleads, still trying to get up. Instinctively, I keep stepping toward him, knowing that with every step I take, he scrambles to crawl backward. At least it keeps him off balance and I can only hope it's making him nervous.

I don't think I said anything to him while he struggled on the ground. I do remember picturing myself on the 50 yard line, quite prepared to punt his testicles for a field goal. Because I prefer he just goes away rather than engage him in a physical contest, I give him the opportunity to avoid the three-point-pain he's due. "If you get up," I hear my voice warn him sternly, "you better run."

And, fortunately for everyone, that's exactly what he did.

After calming down and making sure the idiot is gone, Sabina and I continue toward our hotel. After a beer, we plot a sufficiently miserable and torturous demise for the creep. Half way through the second, we are able to find some of the situation almost humorous, especially how he will explain the bruises my fingertips have embedded on the side of his face.

Regardless of the methods we use to comfort ourselves, we cannot deny that we are incredibly fortunate to have fared as well as we did.  That sobering thought is reason enough to order another round.

• ¤ •

"I think you have to know who you are, get to know the monster that lives in your soul, dive deep into your soul and explore it."
~Tori Amos

In 1994, the DC Rape Crisis Center awarded Tori Amos a Visionary award for the song, "Me and a Gun" and the co-creation of RAINN. Click here for an international directory of rape crisis support resources.