Last night there was confusion in a concert aisle.
The usher sent me down the wrong row, and, trusting him, I believed myself to be in the right spot, and the angry man in front of me to be in the wrong one.
He wasn't, and I didn't understand that at first, but we didn't clear it up right away. Voices were raised out of necessity, because it was already loud. Then he stepped too close to me regardless, jabbing his ticket and his thumb in my face, calling me stupid, telling me to shut up. I was honestly afraid from his body language and my wacko gift of fear that he would hit me. The guy next to him started yelling profanity, telling us both to shut up and move along. He wasn't exactly right, either, but he was righter. I've been there, trying to have my own good time, while two assholes near me couldn't figure out their situation and it wrecked mine. It's never good. Nobody wins in the orbit of pointless conflict.
Last week, another show, a girl used the men's room in desperation that only a beer bladder gets you. When she came out, a guy standing against the wall said, "You tuck it, tranny?" in a sick, mean voice. She was steps past him and doubled back.
"TUCK WHAT? MY VAGINA? WHAT?"
Silence, the kind you get when someone expected no response.
He wasn't expecting this, clearly. He wasn't expecting her to do anything but keep walking, and when he was wrong he lost his internal tape. Her rage lit him up, though, and he yelled back in that uncomfortable combination of indignation and ignorance, with misplaced and/or ugly words like tranny and dude and lesbian and who the fuck are you?
His tone was different than it was at first, though, and she tired of it quickly, and walked away. His friends emerged, with more verbal garbage -- haha, lesbian, haha, tranny, haha things that are not like the other and don't have anything to do with anything, really -- disproportionate in every way to the initial trigger, as is usually the case.
After last night's incident, I moved through an irritated row of people, shaking, scared indeed from the skin-level feeling that the paunchy, curly-haired man with the blinking, tiny wife would have hit me. I have never been struck in the face, but on the few occasions where I've felt it was possible I've had the same reaction. It's weird and hard for me, probably a buried reaction to endless years of mouth surgeries. Because please, whatever you do, don't fuck up my mouth. Don't hit me where it was broken. It was too expensive and it hurt too much to fix it. It would be and would again, and now, I don't have the time or resolve or money.
I made it to the end of the row, wondering what I should do, unwilling to disrupt the correct row in front of me, full of dancing people. A very nice usher lady brought me a chair. She sensed my distress, as I screeched into her headset that I'd been in the wrong row, that there'd be a bad interaction, that a man there had threatened me. She didn't ask any questions. She just seemed to know I was legit, that something had gone really wrong. She said I could sit there the whole time, and, beyond the call, that if I couldn't see, she would see to it that I could move farther up the slope.
I started crying out of nowhere, because this didn't already suck hard enough, embarrassed, wondering how I'd gotten to the point that I couldn't handle a show, that I'd left a situation bowed that years prior I'd have laughed at, that I'd have settled in no time, and never been afraid.
I think, honestly, that I am just tired, my heart and my mind need a break, just want to have fun, don't have the correct resources to handle much beyond that. But I cried too, from the kindness, the knowledge that for every person who might hit you in the face, there is often an equal and opposite intuitive, a person who can smell upset, who will help you. Maybe this is what gets more important when you're older, I don't know.
Last week I didn't intervene when that girl got into it with the guy. She didn't need me to, and I am always working on where I should butt in and where I should stay out, my feelings percolating as they do, just beneath my skin. My visceral reactions have not dulled with time, my big mouth has not shut. There is a reason for this hypertension, beyond the salt and wine and stressful job. There is a reason why my colossal reactions to the need and want and pain around me constantly swirl the way they do.
There is a reason why when a dirtbag asks a girl if she's a "tranny who had to tuck it", that I swivel my head and have something to say that I may or may not actually say. I am learning, still always learning, to use my words, when and not just how, at what volume and velocity, in what corners, at what level of disclosure. It's a wonder we can do it well at all, really. It is so tricky. There are so many maps and changes of venue and burnt out lights at busy intersections. There are so many ways to do it wrong, so many hearts in danger of hurting, so many heads maybe confused.
I don't know. It gets harder before it gets easier, sometimes, I guess. And I know it's not enough to have good intentions if what you leave behind you isn't. But when the alternative is doing nothing at all, I feel like I have to find the balance somewhere. What I did the other night was sit in the chair that lovely lady brought me for one and a half songs, before I realized that hey, I'd paid for that ticket, I had earned my spot up close, so I got up and launched myself into the right row, apologizing to everyone half-stepped on, a little bit afraid my previous nemesis would be right behind me.
He was. It didn't make any difference to me, except I did notice out of the corner of my eye that he left a few songs later. I don't know why. I don't really care, which is unusual. I can only thank him for further exposition of what matters, of how I have to act in stressful situations.
For helping me learn better how to use -- and not use -- my words.