We walked together one afternoon up the steep hill to pick up his car. When we got to the top he commented to me, "I guess I'm not acclimated to the altitude yet. Feel how fast my heart is beating." And he tried to take my hand and put it on his chest. I resisted uncomfortably. "No it's okay, just feel my heartbeat." He took my hand and placed my palm on his sternum.
His heart was indeed beating very rapidly. I made some noncommittal comment like "Yep, that's what happens," turned away, and walked on toward the car. The palm of my hand stung with an unexpected flashback.
- Different he, different place, some years ago. "Wow, feel how fast my heart is beating," he said to me. I placed my hand on his chest, and felt his heart beating quickly. Embarrassed, not wanting to make eye contact, I gave him a light hug. He pulled me tighter, began to kiss me, and I could feel him rise against me.
I pulled away. "No," I told him. "We aren't doing this."
He, a different he, was walking me back to my condo late one night. "You said you want to use my bathroom before you go," I said. "Can I trust you to be a gentleman?" He made a joke, and I insisted. "No, I'm serious. Because once I invited a man into my hotel room and it was a mistake." He assured me that he had far more morals than were needed.
I left my door wide open, and I perched on the kitchen counter in view of the door, waiting for him to finish in the bathroom. When he came out, he sat on the counter opposite me. "So tell me about this man you invited into your room," he told me, a sly and interested smile on his face.
"It's not a good story," I told him earnestly. "I let him into my room... and it was a mistake. That's why I've left my door wide open. That's why I asked you before letting you in." I watched the smile tumble from his face in partial understanding.
- He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed. I fell backwards onto the bed, unresisting, in shock. I couldn't believe that this guy, a married guy, my friend, was doing this. I couldn't believe this was really happening...what was happening? He pressed his weight on top of me, trapping me. He reached under my shirt, rubbing, kissing, fondling. He stroked my crotch with his thumb and grinned at me. I shook my head, pushed his hands away, No.
The phone rang, he swore, and I pushed and wiggled my way out from under him to answer it. "I'll meet you downstairs RIGHT AWAY," I told my friend on the other line, and it was over. I don't know what would have happened if the phone hadn't rang just then.
I climbed into the hot tub at the party and he, a different he, asked what I wanted to drink. "I don't know, what do you think I should have?"
He, a different he, said, "You're in a hot tub with 20 men, and you're asking what you should drink??" We all laughed heartily.
Then I was soaking up the warmth, a scotch in my hand. He, a different he, reassured me, "We joke around, but you're okay here. We won't do anything."
"I know that," I told him. "I'm not afraid of you. Actually I feel safer with a group of men than with just one or two. Because if anything happens, I figure at least somebody will say 'stop'. I take steps to protect my safety, or at least I try to."
Then he, a different he, said, "I'm glad I'm not a girl." I nodded, then shrugged, uncertain of what to say, and the conversation turned to other topics.
But now I know what I should have told him. I should have said, "You shouldn't be glad you're not a girl -- you should be ashamed you're a guy. You should be ashamed of your gender; you should be ashamed that it is even an issue."
- A hotel room is a bedroom with locks, and any invitation can be misinterpreted. It is naive to be completely trusting of everyone you meet. But when you are at a conference with around 300 men and only about 36 women, you are going to be surrounded by mainly men. So what do you do, when you want to spend time with your new friends, or maybe just 1 or 2 friends? What do you do, when they want to be polite and walk you home? I refuse to live my life in fear. But what do I do to keep myself reasonably safe at the same time? I try, but I don't really know. It's a complicated world.