You are ambling through the city hubbub after an arduous day at the office, hands warily thrust in your pant pockets. It is a wonted evening. The city’s profanity throbs frantically. A frenetic hive characterizes the air; Touts clamor. Folk jostle to catch buses home. Cars honk. Solicitors and clients haggle. Street kids waddle, bottles of gum stuck in their kissers. Troops mash into each other like a sea of broth. Malice pervades the ambience. Gridlocks persists on the roads. A slick chap overtly slides a whatchamacallit into a traffic cop’s palm from the driver seat window. You don’t stare, you know better than that. Nobody gawps at the dark underbelly, it is a necessary evil. The city is a guy straddling the good and the bad, albeit the good side is on downtime.
From your blindside, a guy bumps into you, sack tugging behind him like a hero’s cap and fleets away. Ducking in between spaces with refined stealth. A barrage of his ilk follow; men and women intent on averting the perils of making their bones, sacks in tow like they’re sprinting from ghosts of their treacherous pasts. Before you, a clean-limbed svelte lass lies down. She is bedecked in a lady suit, an archetypal corporate woman. Her purse lies a few inches away from her; its contents strewn. Intuitively, you hunch and briskly gather her items putting the assemblage beside her. She reaches for her purse, overprotectively clinging it to her bosom before malevolence has the chance to blink.
People shuffle around her with not a whiff of reluctance. She winces, holding a possibly sprained ankle as she exerts to prop herself up. You step in, unfurling your inner gallant self. Your socialization has been hinged on benevolence, it prods you to help. Furthermore, this is a romantic prospect, it’s how seminal stories of unbridled affection dawn. You dash in, holding her waist, heaving her up, just when she’s almost upright she promptly springs and pushes you back fiercely. You stand baffled, bewildered by the sudden repulsion. This has happened before, in a night club. When lights came on and the lassie gyrating on your laps shot back, her face all shades of hesitance. You cross your fingers and hope it’s not pegged on your attractiveness, or lack thereof.
It’s not. You are right.
“Get off me perv!” She exclaims, frothing at the mouth. Steam exuding from the top of her head if you squint right.
“You are a pervert!”
“Me?” You glance around hoping it is some other guy she was calling out.
The unsightly reality of statement unravels. Never has such sordidness been associated with you. You stand motionless, your impeccable piety tainted by a stranger you were trying to help. Her claims searing bruises in your conscience. Her incense even more ghastly. Perspiration suffices on your forehead. You heart beats in frantically. Throat goes dry. Your palms might have tenuously grazed her heinie as you eased to hold her waist. Not a touch more than an insipid brush that didn’t warrant a reaction. Unbeknownst to you, the moment you reached to help is the moment you ceded innocence. The way she reacts is her sole province. To compound on that; you are a guy. Burly and dark skinned. You reek of guilt. The word ‘miscreant’ is metaphorically emblazoned on your head. You were conceived inherently with a burden, here it comes to play.
At this point, folk are gathering to watch the fracas. You catch the preconceived disdain on their faces. Apparently, people have time to kill, more so for a potential tinderbox, it’s worth their while. It’s you, a giant pitted against an innately harmless bird armed with callous yelling. Suffice to say, it is you against the world.
A waif cop gets whiff of a potential kickback and he suffices. His face pierces yours with despise. He yanks you by your belt and whisks you away, his litany of accusations interspersed with a truncheon tapping your head. The crowd clamours. It happens so fast, all you can hear is a cacophony as he pisses on your dignity; your feet struggle to kiss the concrete. It is like trying to walk upright in space. Your day is upended.
“I know my rights”
You mumble under your breath.
The whites in his eyes take a hue of red.
Lights dim and out you go.
I was watching Trevor Noah’s The Breakfast Club interview the other day on YouTube, there’s a segment he was talking about consent. It suggested, a thin line sits between what folk perceive as acceptable and what would connote sexual harassment, a teeter and you fall on the lousy side. Here’s the analogy that was used as premise; a male co-worker drops flowers and love notes on a femme co-worker’s desk every day to woo her. Here’s the gist; if the girl likes him it would pan out well. If she doesn’t, it could be deemed sexual harassment.
This startles me. The equivocality of it all. The ambiguity of the nuances of sexual harassment. The thrust is consent is imperative. You want her to go out for drink with you, ask her don’t hoodwink her into a date. You want to feel the terrain of her weave, ask her, but be careful though it might lacerate you. You want to hold her hand, ask. You are kissing and want to take things up a notch, ask. You want to surprise her with food, ask. Okay, maybe not, fat chance she will turn down food. Proceed if it’s a yes. Not just a lackluster yes cloaked in implicity. Take an assertive yes. A yes that can stand by itself. If not take off, like the hawkers in my anecdote, not from responsibilities but from the risks therein.