Thomas Wictor

Why I don’t Mind Hermitude

Why I don’t Mind Hermitude

I go out on shopping excursions and to visit Mom in the nursing home. Hermitude is the new normal. Since 2011 the longest car trips I’ve made were to meet with Scott Thunes and watch him play.

Yet even in my nearly nonexistent brushes with the general public, things keep happening. It’s simply my fate in this cycle.

Twenty minutes ago I was at a gas station. It was an impulse-stop; I had enough gas to last me several days, but I figured that as long as I was in the area, and since I rarely go out, I’d better buy gas.

As I filled my tank, I noticed a beautiful young Latina standing on the grass-covered parkway behind the bus stop. She wore skin-tight jeans, a pink tank top, and a backpack. No more than four seconds after I saw her, a metallic-gray Honda Civic sped into the gas station parking lot and screeched to a halt beside her. A young Latino man was behind the wheel. His window and the front passenger window were down. He shouted at the girl. I couldn’t understand what he said, even though they were only about twenty feet away.

The girl spoke to the boy through the open window; she seemed resigned. They were both college aged, I think, though I suppose they could’ve been seniors in high school. When she opened the front passenger door, the boy lunged at her and yanked her by the arm down into the car so that she sat on the floor in front of the seat. She grasped at her wrenched shoulder and started crying while he screamed at her. I just stood there, watching.

The young man then appeared to begin masturbating violently. His left arm pumped up and down, and his head bobbed like a pigeon’s when it hurries along the sidewalk. I have no idea what he was really doing. It was some form of histrionic convulsion to show how upset he was with her. The girl saw me and obviously warned the boy. He looked in my direction, ceased masturbating-convulsing, and leaned back in his seat, staring at the ceiling of the car interior. The girl cried and appealed to him. He shook his head. Then he grabbed a handful of her hair and jerked her head down. She slapped at his hands until he let her go.

As I knew would happen, he turned to me. “You got a problem?” he shouted. “Whatta you lookin’ at?”

I didn’t react at all. What I do in these situations is simply stand stock still and wait. This is how I was dressed and how I presented myself.

The hat isn’t a fashion statement; it’s just that I was gifted with the largest individual head of our species. They don’t make caps big enough for it. My father found me the only baseball cap that ever fit, and I wore it for a decade, getting every last second of use out of it. This hat fits perfectly. I bought two of them.

So as the young man screamed at me, I just stood there, looking like I do in that photo. The girl rubbed the young man’s arm and gingerly got out of the car; he turned away from me and spoke to her. They exchanged a few words, then he threw open his door, raced around to the other side of the car where she stood, and folded his arms, his head down like a five-year-old sulking. For some reason he’d remembered to bring his cell phone. He was very muscular and wore giant shorts. If I had to guess, I’d say he was a football player, since he had no tattoos and gave off that athlete-frat-boy vibe.

The girl stroked his arm, trying to soothe to him. He suddenly ran back to the driver’s side of the car and tossed his cell phone into the open door.

What the fuck you lookin’ at, motherfucker?” he screamed at me, his arms by his sides, rigid as boards. His balled fists reminded me of sledgehammer heads.

I stood and watched.

He pointed to his own eyes with both hands. “You like lookin’?” he shouted. “You like that, motherfucker? What the fuck’s your problem?

I stood and watched.

He took a few steps toward me; the girl ran around the car to restrain him. He let her take him by the wrists and pull him back.

“Just stop it, David!” she sniveled. “Let’s go!

David vaulted through the open car door into the driver’s seat, and the girl got into the front passenger’s seat. As he started the car, David yelled at me, “Take a good look, motherfucker. Yeah, you like watchin’, don’t you?” He floored it, heading toward the exit.

I came out from behind my car to note his license-plate number, which I wrote down a couple of minutes later. When David saw in his rear-view mirror that I’d finally moved, he slammed on the brakes, jumped out, and screamed, “Yeah, get my plate number, motherfucker! That’s right!

He ran at me, a flat-out sprint, his face white and his eyes enormous. The veins in his neck and forehead were like purple worms.

Inside the car, the girl wailed, “David! Don’t!

I stood motionless and watched.

Fifteen feet away David stopped, went back to his car, slammed the roof with both sledgehammer-fists so hard he left a massive dent, got in, and roared out of the parking lot and down the street. I sat in my car for ten minutes—since there was nobody behind me—and when I was sure that the coast was clear, I drove home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

What I’d like to stress to the Davids out there is that if you find a girl ill enough to stay with you even though you pound the crap out of her, that’s your business, not mine. I don’t give the slightest damn. But if you do it in public, I’m going to keep an eye on you to make sure that your drama doesn’t engulf me while I’m just trying to get through the day, harming nobody in the process. I have to pay attention to you in case you pull a gun and start spraying bullets in some tawdry murder-suicide. That’s the only reason I watch you.

Standing stock still and not responding works very well. Animals need cues for how to react. When I give an animal nothing whatsoever, it doesn’t know what to do. Generally, it’ll back off because it thinks I’ve got something up my sleeve.

And you know what? I do. As David approached me, I was mentally going over the series of three actions that would render him harmless. I have to do twenty minutes of aerobics a day. My workout routine is all the martial-arts moves I learned in the years I took karate, plus a lot of stuff I studied on my own. Basically, what I do for twenty minutes a day is practice defending myself.

So far I’ve never had to use this knowledge. But I’m too old and too sick to put up with being victimized anymore. I don’t believe in a “proportional response.” Anyone who comes at me in a way that makes me feel endangered is going to receive what Harry Truman called “massive retaliation.” It’ll be one of those preemptive strikes that so offends the world community. You’ll get everything in my arsenal, instantly. There will be no ratcheting up, no escalation, and no ritualized male posturing.

Do whatever you want to each other in your repulsive lives, but leave me out of it. The only reason I watch is because I have to prepare. If you don’t want me to watch, then don’t put on your stupid shows in public. And as you abuse your beloved, if you look up and see that a grey-bearded guy in a silly tan fedora is observing, steer clear of him.

It’s one thing to beat up a defenseless young woman; it’s quite another to assault a fifty-one-year-old man who has absolutely no inhibitions about doing what it takes to end the threat and who practices every day how to do exactly that.

Are we clear, David?

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