I’m reluctant to share this one. While my heart was in the right place, I felt a flare of righteous anger. That type of anger feels right at the moment but often sours with consequences. I am not a hero in this story.
About two weeks ago, I was driving about 35 mph in a way that made me feel alive. Music high, smiling. Not in a hurry.
Her green sedan pulled alongside me in the lane to my left.
She held her phone, crying.
Her black hair reached her shoulders.
She tossed her phone in the passenger seat.
And unexpectedly looked toward me.
Tears on her face.
She nodded and wiped her eyes with a sleeve.
I let off the gas, and she raced away.
Five minutes later, I pulled into the lot.
And saw the green sedan there.
Life reminds me there aren’t many coincidences.
As I parked, I noted she was next to the store.
Cigarette in hand, nervous.
I watched a man pull up and exit his truck angrily.
He hissed at her in a way I couldn’t hear.
She flinched and looked down to the ground. Because of my childhood, I saw the backstory written plain. I already knew what her private life was like. This wasn’t the first time, nor the tenth.
The man gesticulated and shook.
Without thinking, I walked toward them.
“How are you?” I asked her.
She looked at me in surprise.
The man interrupted, “Who are you?”
I replied, “I am the man just in time.”
“For what?” He hissed at me.
“To do what I need to.” The anger flared in me.
I prayed he’d move toward me.
I walked to his truck and opened the driver’s door. “Get the eff out of here, sir.” I smiled like a predator. I admit that it felt good. I’m not sure what that says about me.
The woman watched, fearful of what her man might do.
She should have feared what I might do.
A man in Canada filled my head, his volatile narcissism unchecked, his multiple victims attempting to regain normal lives in his wake. The law does nothing to aggressively meet the abuser’s behavior in kind, even though that is what is needed. Another man was using his long familiarity with control and emotional abuse to impoverish his fleeing wife. Both honestly deserve a measured dose of Southern Justice. This might be my surrogate, one to catch my vengeance. I hoped so. Waiting for ‘someone’ to help might lead to never. I’d felt the burn inflaming me for some time.
“Get home in ten or else,” he told the woman.
“She won’t be there in 10. Or 60. Go.”
He paced around me and pretended to lunge as he did. I didn’t flinch. Ninety percent of all aggression fails to materialize. Had the ten percent emerged, Bobby Dean laid in wait, anesthetized against anything except immobilizing pain. I wanted him to lunge and make contact. The law allows us to defend someone else. If it penalizes me for acting on impulse, that’s fair.
He got in the truck, slammed the door, and roared away. He put down his window momentarily and shouted the redneck equivalent of whatever angry, stupid people say. I laughed purposefully and ignored him.
The woman cried again.
“You know what you need to do,” I told her. “Today, before it’s too late. Do you have someone to go to?”
“Go there. And don’t go back to that. Do you need anything?”
“No,” she murmured.
“Go now in case he comes back.”
I didn’t enter the store.
I watched the black-haired woman get in her car and depart.
I saw a green car today and wondered if the woman was safe. And I wondered who the man’s next victim might be. That there will be is a certainty. I hope there’s a future me waiting for him. It’s evident that I will pull the curtain back and summon Bobby Dean.
My idle pacifist hands are anxious in an unexpected way.
Days later, I’m still thinking about how close I had to get to really hurting someone. And how the realization that the same Bobby Dean inside me was as guilty of the same misbehavior as the man was with his wife or girlfriend. He was a chronic abuser; ironically, I can channel that same energy to obliterate my doubts and step in on the other side of the situation.
There are no easy answers. But I do know that sometimes raw anger is appropriate. Sometimes it’s the only way. It’s not right, proper, or even intelligent. A lot of men need to spit blood to learn their lesson. And some men, men like me, ones who earned their abuse badges when younger, probably need to be more willing to violently be the one to administer a reminder.
PS I know that we’re supposed to call the police. But I also know that they constantly fail to protect people. The law exists to inhibit behavior, but it often does not remedy the need for immediacy. A few weeks after my surgery, I got a reminder of how precarious the idea of safety can be. The flare that lit inside me of me hasn’t abated. As I said, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this admission.