It wasn’t someone I knew. But, while listening to her vulnerable, shaking voiced testimony this morning an incident came flooding back. One day where I was pinned by a man. I was 13.
I grew up in Los Angeles. It was the Fall of 1979. I went to a progressive public school located on Robertson Blvd next to Hamilton High School. We were a magnet. We had open campus privileges. Now, if I walked as far as Fred’s Bakery to get a cheese bagel for lunch, which we often did, things were fine. But, it was kind of known that if you went further North the street felt more dangerous. But, one day my friend and I wanted to eat something different so we walked to Taco Bell. It did feel less safe than Fred’s Bagels. An uneasy feeling. We looked at the menu and both decided we didn’t want to eat there.
I only half noticed these noisy guys who had come in. I cannot tell you anything about one of the guys. But, the one that is in my head was white, had longish sandy blonde hair, not the clearest skin, but not ugly. Light colored shirt. They were talking loudly. Maybe they were already singing. Like they were high or drunk. My friend and I walked towards the exit. We were passing them. The blonde guy pinned us against the wall. He was singing, then he ambushed us. It happened very fast. His arms were over us, but not touching. his hands on either side of us. He leaned in so close to me I could smell his warm breath. He was singing “Good girls don’t, good girls don’t, but I do.” The Knack song. I had never heard it before then. Now, here is the funny thing about human responses in a crisis. I was a mouthy, wise cracker then ( as now). My friend was quiet, soft. But, in that moment I was frozen. I was terrified and I didn’t know what to do. My gentle friend on the other hand, did. She grabbed my hand and broke hard against his arm and ran dragging me behind her. Once she bolted, I thought, oh, yeah, run. But, had I been alone, I don’t know if and when that would have ever kicked in. That’s why when people say, well, why didn’t so and so do this or that I think STFU, you have no idea how you will react. I want to think I’ll be like the Rock in a movie, but I doubt it.
We ran all the back down Robertson to our campus. When we got there students were hanging out on our tiny patch of asphalt. I remember us telling a few of them, “oh, this creepy guy grabbed us…” But, I don’t recall having “Let’s go tell the teachers. Let’s call the police” thoughts. No one suggested it either. I was shaken and grossed out. I was embarrassed we had gone all the way to Taco Bell. It was our fault we went down there. Which some people did comment on.. “Oh, you can’t go that far down the street”
Life went on. I had been out of touch with that friend, but a few years ago we reconnected. We enjoy going to drink wine or have dinner. I said something about that icky neighborhood we went to school in. “Oh, we bought our house near there.” She said, not thinking it icky at all.
“Oh, I’m sure it has changed” I said, not wanting to insult her neighborhood
One night I said to her, “I really want to thank you for being so brave and grabbing my hand that day in the Taco Bell when they gross guy cornered us. I was frozen with fear.”
She had NO IDEA what I was talking about. She didn’t remember it at all.
Does that mean it didn’t happen? No. But, if that guy who sang the Knack song was up for a Supreme Court Seat and I told my story would I be believed? I know it happened. I also know that when I hear that song ..almost 30 years later, I feel like I’m going to throw up.