The Terrified Woman
When first living in San Francisco after leaving the Marines, I lived in an unfurnished rented room in a flat. The flat had a kitchen outside my room and a bathroom down the hall, available to anyone renting a room there. I lived in that room with only unemployment insurance for income.
I spent a lot of time exploring San Francisco, finding low-budget adventures and activities. I became acquainted with a few other street people from odd jobs. One day a couple I knew stopped by with a young woman. They said she was a tourist from Switzerland they met and she was asking what there was to see in San Francisco. So they brought her to me to show her around the city.
She was a beautiful young woman, slender and sexy. She said she was a dancer in Switzerland but was just traveling across the United States alone before she got married. So I took her around the city showing her the sites of interest.
As it began getting dark we ate in Chinatown at a restaurant I liked. After dinner I remembered a place an acquaintance had shown me near my room. Just up the hill from my flat someone had torn down an old victorian to rebuild, but the recession had put it on hold. So there was this large empty lot on the side of the hill overlooking Golden Gate Park and the entire city. It provided a spectacular view.
From Chinatown we took the streetcar past my room and got off on a dark street. I led her along the street and then down an even darker out of the way alley to an isolated trail up the side of the hill into the shrubbery at the back of the empty lot. From there I showed her the spectacular view and she was suitably impressed. I took advantage of the romantic situation to kiss her and she spent the night with me.
I have always thought of this as a beautiful romantic story of my youth. But then about fifty years later I was lying in my bed reminiscing about that occasion when my brain told me a different version I hadn't considered before: from her point of view.
Here was a young woman traveling alone in a strange country, visiting a strange city, and introduced to a strange man who showed her around the city. But then when it became dark the strange man took her away from lighted streets and public view. She had no way of knowing about the spectacular view. She only knew that I was leading her into isolated darkness where for all she knew I could have raped and strangled her without anyone knowing.
When I showed her the view of the city, with the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge on our left with street lights and advertising illuminating the landscape sprawling below to the downtown and around to the Bay Bridge, it probably not only startled her with its beauty, but it also probably reassured her that maybe I wasn't going to kill her. She had to have been terrified when I took her to that dark romantic encounter.
When I lived in Austin, Texas, while attending the University of Texas, I tended to frequent an after-hours nightclub in the Black section of town. It could stay open after-hours because it was just outside the city limits, so it was frequented by many who worked at the city bars and clubs forced to close.
They featured a live band and a dance floor with largely mixed singles attending. This was 1966 in a southern town, so racial mixing was somewhat taboo. But one night I saw an absolutely gorgeous young Black woman enter the bar and walk over to the dance floor. I wasted no time in asking her to dance.
I actually had almost no experience with African-Americans because I grew up in the White suburbs of Los Angeles. So when she accepted my offer to dance I was encouraged to ask her out during our dance. Her reply was that it would cost me $25, which was a goodly sum in 1966.
I looked at her arrogantly and replied "Do I look like I have to pay for it?"
Her response was amiable: "That's what I like to hear."
So when our dance was over we went our separate ways. Yet afterwards I questioned my arrogant decision. I did have $25 in my pocket and I could have had sex with this absolutely gorgeous woman but I had turned her down. For many years I second guessed that decision because she was so beautiful.
But her comment, "That's what I like to hear", also bothered me. It seemed out of place. Why would a prostitute like to hear that a man didn't need to pay for her services? That made no sense. Fifty years later, while reminiscing, my brain clued me in: d'oh, she was a cop. If I'd spent that $25 I'd have gone to jail.
When I became a freshman in high school I went out for the football team. I didn't have older brothers or friends, so I didn't know you had to pay for insurance and football shoes. I didn't have the money so I sat out the first year.
In my second year, I had the money for insurance and I bought used shoes from a player who quit the team, even though they weren't my size. My friends who had played were now on the sophomore team but the coaches took my weight and height and said I still qualified for the freshman team. I was disappointed because I, a sophomore, was playing with freshmen.
I played defensive end and nobody ever ran around my end, not in practice nor in games with other schools. I simply threw these puny freshmen around. They usually ran toward the other end because with the wrong size shoes I wore, I couldn't run fast enough to catch them. I lettered and my parents wanted to buy me a sweater to display my letter, but I was too embarrassed as a sophomore to wear a freshman letter.
Thirty years later, while reminiscing, my brain spelled it out for me. When my stepfather married my mother in St. Louis, he took me with him to California to find a house and job before having my mother follow. He put me in school while he looked for work. But I was only four years old, I turned five in February. My parents should have waited until I was five years old before enrolling me in kindergarten. As a consequence, I was actually the same age and size as those freshmen I played against on the football team.