A final blow to the head and he was out cold, face down, glistening drool seeping from his cracked, nicotine-stained lips. And I was the one who did it. I warned him but he didn't listen. Oh he really should have.
When we arrived at the Nevada desert hot springs for a vacation, we were road-weary and dusty. My friend Amanda and I had planned the trip months ago. The time at the shore had left me feeling vacant, like a burnt-out building. This hot spring would be my rebirth, my scalding baptism.
When we finished the mile-long trek to the hot spring, I dropped my backpack and took in the beauty. Several sizable hot springs, all-adjoining. A majestic view overlooking a green valley. Yes! This will do the trick. Mental health, here I come…dammit.
There were a few others in the pool but no matter. Everyone seemed to be in his or her own blissful, bubbling world.
My friend quickly undressed and made her way into largest pool. I took my time, drinking in the ritual to its fullest. With each article of clothing I dropped, I let go of another "drag me down" element in my life.
When I finally placed my foot in the steaming hot liquid, it felt as if the magic flew through my feet and up my naked body. As I submerged, it was all I could do not to cry. The comfort, the goodness, it almost hurt to take in. I closed my eyes and let the healing begin. Peace of mind and purity took over and I drifted off into a special inner world.
Then I heard him. A gruff, asthmatic laugh.
I opened my eyes and saw a man on the other side of the pool, staring at me in that lascivious and greasy way. No, no...not this now. Please not this now.
I returned his stare aggressively, as if to say, "Leave me the fuck alone right now." But he wouldn't be dissuaded. I couldn't let him ruin this. Closing my eyes again, I tried desperately to block him out but every time I'd open them, his eyes burned my flesh.
"Can you stop staring at me?"
"I said stop staring at me."
"Fuck you. I'll look at what I want."
I looked over at my friend. Her relaxation had quickly turned into concern.
"It's just rude and I'm trying to relax."
"Better try harder, I guess!" he laughed.
"She's got a hot body, man. I can't help it," he jokingly tells his friend.
What a scrawny fuck of a man. Yellowed teeth, broken face, oily hair, glowing red eyes. I could smell the stale cigarette smoke and cheap booze emanating from the steam and drifting my way.
I approximated his size so I could make my decision. He was at least an inch or two smaller than me. Good. It is possible.
As a woman who has studied martial arts for years, I’ve sparred men considerably bigger than me. This guy seemed like an easy takedown, especially because he was drunk.
Some will argue that men will consistently beat a woman in any fight but several factors come into play. For me, the most pressing concern is size. If a man is much bigger than me, then yes, there's a good chance he'll win. But if a man is my size or smaller, then the odds shift. I stand a chance. And after years of fighting in competitions, I stand a better than average chance.
I could have taken him. In my mind, when I go back in time, I do. I ask him to step outside of the pool, where I put on my clothes. Then I plant a sidekick right in his gut. He’d gasp and drop forward. Then I’d grab the sides of his head firmly and repeatedly ram my knee into his bloated face. He’d fall, facedown in a puddle of his own blood and saliva. I’d grab my stunned friend and leave.
But I can't go back. And that's not what I did. Instead I got up and went to an adjacent pool and fumed instead of cleansed.
The only consolation is that little runt of a methhead is dead by now, rotting in a worm-ridden cardboard box somewhere. I hope no one sheds a tear for him. I hope that men everywhere realize that unwanted stares can feel as invasive as an unwanted touch.
Those stares weren't sexual; they were an act of dominance and aggression. He spit on my spirit during a time when I so needed a break from the ugliness of life. One man’s lasciviousness trumped one woman's need for peace of mind. It’s a spiritual crime of sorts.
Oh, you did the right thing, everyone says. It’s best to avoid altercations. And for the most part, I agree. But doing the best thing didn’t alleviate my anger and my need to right things in my own way.
There was no justice that day. There was no baptism.