So one random thing I used to wonder about was if, in a situation of mortal danger, I would go with “fight,” or “flight.” I am pretty competitive (fight) but also extremely non-confrontational (flight—get my bootay out of there). I didn’t really WANT to be in an altercation, but I was a little bit curious.
A couple of nights ago, I got my chance to find out.
It was a little after 7PM on a weeknight, and I was headed to a cool nearby backpackers, Zombie Cucumber, to meet some friends for a goodbye dinner. It was a goodbye of sorts, and our friend who also manages the backpackers, Sabrina, is an AMAZING cook and I was really looking forward to spending time with her and the other people who would be there. But I had forgotten my camera! No way did I want to not get pictures of A. my friends at our special evening together and B. her amazingly delicious food for my blog. I ran back to my house to get it and then set back off.
I only had a few minutes to walk down my road, the marginal on the beach, to get there. It wasn’t far. I had my camera, but in my blazer pocket no one could see it, so I never thought I would be approached—that’s what happens to people with big purses who look like tourists. I speak Portuguese, I’ve lived here for two years! No problem. This is the kind of thinking that gets you in trouble…
Just two minutes outside of my house I saw two Mozambican guys talking under a streetlight. They were tall, maybe around 20 years old, just the type of people I’m used to seeing on the road. I greeted them in a firm voice—“Boa noite”—as I walked by, and thought nothing of it. I heard a weird grunt behind me, strange…
And then all of a sudden I had two arms grabbing me around the neck from behind, choking me. I tried to scream but no words could come out. He threw me to the ground, one hand choking me, jumped on me, yelling, “give me give me” while the other guy tried to help pin me down. Two against one. No one there to help me. Endless horrible possibilities entering my consciousness.
Okay, this is actually happening.
I get out a scream, not that anyone heard or would have come even if they had.
Reality sets in.
OH HELLLLL NO ARE YOU MESSING WITH ME.
I started flailing and kicking and managed to pry dude #1’s arm off of my throat and kicked dude #2 somewhere around his head, and then tuck and rolled just in time to hit dude #1 with an elbow.
This was much less badass than it sounds. Really it was me rolling around in the dirt trying to get away from (assumedly) two bored young men who thought I might have had money.
But I don’t think they expected me to fight so after a little while (it felt like ages) I was able to jump up and they let me go. I pulled off my sandals and ran, gasping, trying to catch my breath, to the backpackers where my friends comforted me.
What just happened?
I was in shock, my veins were full of adrenaline, my throat hurt, but most of all, my head was spinning, my brain full of the what-ifs.
This was a teaching moment for me.
First of all: don’t let your guard down. I HATE this because I hate walking through life constantly looking over my shoulder. But things happen and I need to be careful and make sure my friends are doing the same.
Second: I am STRONG. Sure, I’m not always happy with my body due to my intrinsic feminine insecurities but when I can fight off two dudes… I have nothing to worry about. (thought running through my mind as soon as my heart rate dropped: thank God I work out.)
Third: Support in a crisis (or near-crisis) is NECESSARY. I am so glad I had people to talk to and comfort me after this happened. If I had tried to handle it alone I would have gone crazy.
Fourth: women are targets. Every cell in my independent-feminist-woman body cries out at this. I AM POWERFUL! I AM MY OWN PERSON! I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT, WHATEVER MEN CAN! Yes, but also no. it is a horrible and humbling reality to face but sometimes you will be targeted just for your sex. No, this isn’t fair, but I need to be more accepting of it and realistically assess risk in certain situations.
Fourth: I am definitely, most DEFINITELY, a FIGHTER.
Some delicious food and some gin & tonics later (I’m not a boozer and 99% of the time I think food and alcohol should NOT be used for comfort. This was not one of those times) I felt better. I am still a little in shock about the situation but am just so grateful that God was looking out for me.
I don’t have any pictures of us because as you might imagine I looked a little beat, but the only reason I got into this situation was because I wanted pictures for the blog, so dammit, I’m posting pictures. I don’t care if they are ugly. Redemption!!! Those guys didn’t even get my camera.
Camille: “take a picture of the drink!!!” Yes, I will. This was perhaps the best and most necessary cocktail I have ever had. Ever.
I am just so grateful that things happened the way they did but also wanted to post this as a wake-up call, especially for people moving abroad or considering PC: be careful. This stuff can happen anywhere–in my Mozambican village or in our backyards in American suburbia, but still. Please look out for yourselves.
Summary lesson: don’t walk alone at night. And take kickboxing classes.
Have you ever been in a scary situation where you felt threatened? How did you respond?