I've been spending more time out in the suburbs lately. D.Jack lives out there; not far out, really, but far enough that I always say things like "When do you want to head back into Ottawa?" and not to make him laugh.
When I'm out there, I'm kind of fascinated. We walk through the huge park, we walk by the river, we walk on the train tracks. It's all so quiet and dark. The houses aren't big, not necessarily, but they're far apart. I've been in urban areas long enough that going to the strip mall near his house feels like ethnography.
Last night we went to the strip mall to play pool. I'm just learning how. I'm terrible at it, but I don't mind being terrible in front of D.Jack. I like the mix of talking and doing. I'm getting better, make a good shot now and again. A satisfying smack of the balls, the cue ball whirling in place after.
We finished our last game before D.Jack finished his last beer. We moved to the bar, I got some water, we chatted, watched the TVs flicker, soccer mostly. We nodded hello to the guy kitty corner to us. Handsome black guy with a nearly shaved head, slim. He nodded back. He left, came back with some Subway.
One guy joined him. Couldn't really tell you what he looked like, particularly. Had a bad angle on him. White guy, dark hair, worn maybe kinda longish. Hunched low to the bar.
Another guy joined them - on the other side of Mr. Subway. White silky shirt, probably a soccer shirt. Skin more pink than the hunched guy, he had short dark curly hair. Broad and meaty through the shoulders. A cleft chin and wide set dark eyes. Thick eyebrows.
D.Jack was almost finished his drink. My water was nearly gone.
They got talking about Al Gore, and the recent sexual harassment allegations against him. Being where we where, those guys looking like they looked, I purposefully tuned them out. Or rather, tried to tune them out.
It was hard; I was unsuccessful. I tried to keep my attention on my own conversation but it was spotty. I finally lost it altogether when White Shirt's voice went up a half decibel.
"When a girl says 'We shouldn't do this,' that's not no." He curled his lip and shrugged his shoulders to emphasize the point. "'We shouldn't do this.' That's not no! Am I right?"
I turned to D.Jack and said, "Well then. That's my cue. I'm gonna go piss." I turned on my stool and slid off.
The guy's voice faded as I walked away. "I mean, what's she doing in the men's washroom anyway?"
I sat on the toilet and fumed. Thought about all the things I could say to him. Thought about whether I would say them. Took some deep breaths to stop the heartbeat in my ears.
When I got back out, D.Jack has his hoodie on, was getting off the stool as I walked towards him. The bartender teased D.Jack a bit, said "Lovely to meet you again, Megan." I was surprised, but thought it a nice gesture.
We passed behind White Shirt. I thought about catching his arm and asking him how many girls he thought he'd probably raped, with an attitude like that. He'd say none, of course, but I thought it maybe might shake him up just enough. My courage failed and the moment passed.
I waited till we were about 2 steps out the door to explode into a rant. D.Jack let me go, let me blow off the steam.
"It was interesting after you left," he said as I was winding down.
I snorted. "I bet it was."
"No," he said. "Not like that."
I raised my eyebrows, doubtful.
"No, really. The guy closest to us, he turned to the guy who was talking and said 'You know, I bet a lot of women wouldn't agree.' and then he kind of gestured at you and said 'Like that.'"
"Yeah. Maybe because it was because I'd just opened my mouth to say something. But your exit was noted."
"The guy just shut up."
"Huh. I had no idea they'd noticed me in the first place."
"They had for sure. And Patty making a point of saying goodbye to you when we left. That was a message too, I think."
I was shocked, frankly. I was not expecting to find an ally in a suburban pool hall.
Let's face it, I'd pegged them all as Not My People as soon as they sat down. When that guy started on, it was an easy flip to my knee-jerk hatred of sports-loving suburban yobbos who say stupid sexist shit because they can and no one calls them on it.
It made me happy, too.
Sure I could have said something myself, maybe should have. But to that guy, I'm pretty sure I'd be easily dismissed. Getting cut down by his buddy two stools down? Not so much. He may think twice about saying shit like that again, even. Not because of me, not because I obviously didn't agree with him, but because one of His People might call him on it.
And it gave me hope.
When I poke my head out of my bubble, I often despair for the world. I feel unwelcome and out of place; I read and hear shit on a regular basis that I think is frankly appalling. I thought that guy was just more of the same. I thought all his friends were too, by virtue of looking how they looked and sitting beside him.
But maybe the friend's response wasn't an isolated incident. Maybe that friend is just willing to take that kind of a risk in his group - because standing up against the status quo is a risk in any group. Maybe White Shirt will think twice about saying something fucking stupid like that. Hell, maybe he'll even question the belief behind it.
Maybe he won't. I don't know.
What I do know is that if there's one ally out there, there's more. Maybe the borders I've drawn around My People could be more permeable than they have been till now.