The next night, I went to sleep, wondering, as I’d wondered for over 40 years, what women meant when they said to me, “You’re safe.” It was something I’d never understood. A mystery of life. I had all the same body parts as the guys they said weren’t safe. Lots of other guys were smaller than me. Lots would look at their lawn, and wish they could pay someone else to mow it.
I didn’t always have a good opinion of other guys. Was I safe because of the sports things I didn’t like, and didn’t do? Perhaps it was because I didn’t group off with other guys, and talk about banging someone who walked by. “I could tap that.”
Whatever it meant, I’d never understood it. It said to me, “He can’t hurt you. He’s not a threat to you. You can always escape him. If he gets angry, he’ll walk away.” It always meant, “He’s not a warrior type. He’s a non-threat.”
That night, as I wondered yet again, what it meant, I drifted off to sleep. And to sleep is to dream, even if the dreams are never remembered.
When Tommy got to the Halloween party, Ginger sat down next to me on the sofa, “I’m going to use you to keep me safe from him.” Ginger usually never talked to me, about anything. She certainly never sat next to me anywhere. But, there she was, so close to me on that sofa, I couldn’t have avoided physical contact with her if I’d tried. She sat right next to me, and started talking about all kinds of things.
Tommy was a good friend of mine. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, unless that fly landed on his ice cream. That happened, the fly deserved to die anyway. I had no idea what Ginger was talking about, no idea how sitting next to me was going to keep her safe from Tommy. Hell, if he wanted a fight, I’d lose big time. Some 180 pound guy going against a brown belt in karate? I’d be dead in seconds.
So, I sat there, on that sofa, completely in the dark, with no idea what she was talking about, since I knew Tommy wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
It was one of those mysteries to me, what she was doing, and even what she thought was a threat. I sat on the sofa, and watched as Tommy and his room mate, Ben, said hi to everyone at the party, got their plates of Halloween candy, and their cups of George’s famous spiked sherbet punch, and went out on the back deck.
They stayed on that deck the rest of the party. After Ginger saw they weren’t coming back from the deck, she got up, and was suddenly the same Ginger I’d known for years. The one that almost never talked to me.
I blinked my eyes, and everything changed.
Lora, Bill, and I were in the computer lab back in college days. Wow, that was a long time ago. The mainframe was down for preventive maintenance. They hauled it down at 0500 hours every morning. We were the last three people in the computer lab. All three of us in the same class, with the same project due in a few days. All three of us trying to fix our programs, and living on caffeine and sugar.
After a few minutes, Bill declared he was hungry, and was going to get something to eat. He asked Lora if she wanted to go with him. “I’ll even pay.” Sounded like a good deal to me. I might have taken him up on that, but he hadn’t asked me.
Lora declined. For like, ten minutes, she declined. Over and over again. He couldn’t talk her into it, no matter how he asked, or how he financed the meal for her. Eventually, he gave up, “OK. I’m going to go eat now.” And he left.
I had to remind myself to not choke when Lora asked, five minutes later, if I’d walk with her to the 7-11 store, for munchies. A pretty girl asked me to walk with her at 0515 hours, across the campus, to the main road, where the 7-11 was? Only an idiot wouldn’t have said yes. I never turned down the chance to walk with a pretty girl.
We walked, and talked about the way class had been going, and how insane the access to the mainframe had become, with 30 minute use limits put on it, and a line to use the next open terminal that stretched out of the lab into the hallway of the building.
At the 7-11, we picked out the munchies we wanted. She paid for hers, I paid for mine. I was polite, of course, and let her know if she was short of cash I could pay the rest. After all, I did have a part time job, and an income.
With munchies in hand, drinking sodas on the walk back to the lab, my curiosity got the best of me, and I asked an obvious question. “Why didn’t you go eat with him? And why ask me to walk to 7-11?”
She had this pretty smile. A pretty girl, with a pretty smile. “Because. You’re safe.”
Then, I blinked, and the dream changed again.
My wife was driving, and her car was out of gas. “We’re stopping at the station.”
“OK. You want me to tank it up?” I don’t know why I asked. She always wanted me to tank it up.
She pulled into the station, picked a pump, parked next to it, and handed me her credit card. “We’ll use my card this time.”
I got out, and walked around the car, to the gas pump, on her side of the car, and opened the gas tank, also on her side of the car. It took a few, but I filled the tank with regular unleaded. I made sure I closed the tank, and got the receipt from the pump when I was done. She always asked for the receipt.
As I filled the tank, I noted how quiet the night was. It had been a long day, she’d wanted to go on one of her shopping trips, at the stores in a mall three hours from home, because they had things our stores didn’t.
I didn’t argue, as it meant I got to spend time with her, and I already knew, if I didn’t keep her company, she would make my entire week miserable. Oh, she wouldn’t do it intentionally, or deliberately, but it would happen anyway. Because I knew she needed those trips to vent, to let off steam, and to de-stress from her job.
Filling the gas tank at a gas station 100 miles out of town at freaking midnight wasn’t fun, but the car needed gas. I just wished she’d have handled it herself that time, so I didn’t have to.
Then, I blinked, and everything changed again.
Julie got up from her desk and wandered over to mine, “I need to take a walk outside. Come with me.” It wasn’t really a request, but I knew I didn’t have to. Still. Julie. Never occurred to me why she asked me to go on a walk. I mean, the lab we worked in was full of guys who would have been happy to walk with her.
I got up, and off we went. Damn, that woman could walk. She did three laps around the building and parking lot. And she talked about everything. About the kitchen work she and her family were doing at home. The new car she was getting used to since the wreck totaled her Jeep. The boat her husband wanted, and didn’t know she was going to get him for Christmas. And food. Always food.
We walked for over 20 minutes. She was the only woman in sight. That got me looked at a few times, and had me wondering, “What, those guys never seen someone walking with a pretty woman?”
Then, I blinked, and I was in a room, alone, with a voice that was calm, and quiet, and I had no idea where it was coming from.
“Do you finally understand?”
“Because, you’re safe.”
“Don’t talk to me about that! You know that pisses me off! Everyone thinks I’m harmless! I know that, and you know how much I hate that!”
“You still don’t understand, do you.”
“Understand what? That I’m no threat to anyone?”
“No! That’s not it at all!”
Then, a word started to form in the air, in front of me. There was no way I couldn’t see it. I watched it come into focus. “#METOO”
I screamed at the voice, “I never hurt anyone! I never hurt any of them!”
There was a pause. A silence. I didn’t hear anything, not even my own breathing. Dead silence.
“They know too.”
I stared at that damn hashtag hanging in mid air in front of me.
“Because. You’re safe.”
There was Lora, standing in one corner of the room, “Because. You’re safe.”
A second voice spoke, “You kept me safe from him.” It was Ginger, standing in another corner.
My wife’s voice came from the third corner, “Yes. You fill the tank.”
Julie turned up in the fourth corner, “Take a walk outside with me, please.”
And that damn voice from nowhere asked, “Do you finally understand?”
“Because. I’m safe.”
It never had occurred to me before. I’d never understood, in 40 something years of trying to figure it out, I’d never seen the obvious. “Because. They knew I wouldn’t hurt them.” I stared at the hashtag, “#METOO” floating in the air in front of me. “They knew I wouldn’t lay a hand on them. I wouldn’t ask for anything.”
I finally understood what they’d said. What they’d all said, in so many different ways.
We can trust you. Because. You’re safe.
That’s when I realized the room was no longer dark, the sun had risen, and it was time to start my day.