She’s Over It
by Brontez Purnell from this month’s MRR magazine
To what extent do you get involved and to what extent do just let shit go? My mind instantly flashes to about a million scenarios: Rodney King, Oscar Grant, the Richmond gang rape case, etc. (There’s about a million and one I’m not naming.) Here were situations where to a certain extent it was about crowd participation. With Rodney and Oscar it was both political and definitive to whoever decided to press “record” on the video camera and show the world what cops can get away with, and in the Richmond case it was a nightmarish realization that we live in a world where people can be cavalier in the face of the unthinkable. There is this mode of human thinking where people always want to hang back in a crowd — like the craziest shit can be happening, but the mode of thinking always seems to be, “This isn’t my problem. If no one else is reacting I’m not gonna react.” This is how horrible shit happens, seriously. But there is something to be said for maybe making more “passive” actions to protest someone being fucked with — like maybe calling the cops from your cell phone. It’s all very case-by-case but I’m always wondering if that could be enough. Obviously, and unfortunately, sometimes it has to be.
Long story short, my step-father was a pretty violent man. Really violent. There’s no need to go into all of it. As a child growing up in this situation I saw things go on in my house that made me feel like I was cursed by God, and was being fucked with specifically, but the second I ran away from home and talked to other punks I began to see the common thread of our existence. You grow up in some shitty Mid-American hell hole. your dad is violent but he makes waaay more money than your mom, so all his bullshit gets to hang out. (Thanks, Patriarchy!) You grow up feeling inferior, fucked with, and with a chip on your shoulder, and the more you take in about the reality around you the chip gets bigger and bigger. One day I learned that I needn’t cry over this (or cry more?) ’cause I can think of about 100 different people where this skeletal framework was happening in their homes too — shaping us. I remember growing up wanting access to guns and money (i.e., “safety”) even though guns kinda scared me and money was (and is still) very elusive. The thing about punks/freaks in general is that we were the first to realize that things were terribly wrong. We had all, through very hard means, got the “cosmic clue” the world was handing us (i.e., shit is fuuuuuuuuked up, girl — better pick a battle stategy now!). Or, rather, some of us did. It’s still funny how, even in the punk bubble, how many “well-adjusted” people walk among us. I can’t begin to explain how many ex-friends, -bandmates, -roomates, etc., who, even after they’ve known me for most of my life and my continuing struggle, still had the gall to ask, “Why are you so angry?” …But I digress…
I remember my family was sitting at Wendy’s eating when a fight erupted between my mom and step-dad. Something that started stupid (as always) and was going to end violently (as usual). I was holding my little sister waiting for something horrible to happen (I always had this inner anxiety that they would kill each other) when, for one of the only times I can remember, help came. There was this big white body-builder lady eating with her daughter at a table behind us. They continued to fight outside and the woman intervened. She pulled out a cell phone, (which I remember thinking was weird — it was about a good twelve years before the cell “boom”) and offered to stay with us till the cops came. I remember being in such a weird headspace. My step-dad had gotten away with so much for so long that I don’t think it ever really occurred to me that me and mom and sister were worth protecting. Sad. I do feel inclined to comment again on race and class here. My aunts and uncles stayed away from my parents’ violent relationship. It was so frequent I don’t really blame them, but also we lived in “the Fields” (where cotton was grown) and the relationship to the cops was dismal. Every dispute where they got called, they would come ask some questions, do nothing, and the cycle would continue. Now, my step-dad was pretty bold. If any of my aunts called the cops on him he would’ve fucked with them too, but there was NO WAY he was gonna fuck with a white lady. In Alabama?!?!?!?!?!!? Oh please… and she was a body builder?!?!?!!? (which is funny ’cause he was on the short side). Even with the sheer tragedy of this story, I cant help but laugh my ass off at these factors. I remembered it ’cause it was on of the few times I can recall a stranger coming to the rescue.
It was a couple of weeks ago and I was on BART when this huge guy started fucking with his female companion. It was not something you could ignore ’cause he was yelling. I remember it was me and this hippie boy who kept looking at each other like, “Should we check this fool?” Everyone else was ignoring it. He grabbed her hard and I saw the hippie boy jump up — I’ve hated on hippies in the past but I was glad to see that motherfucker. I jumped up with him. Now I am not a tough person. I have intense anxiety in physical situations, I stop short and have been too scared to fight back more times than I like to admit, but I knew despite all that that this was the one day in my life I wasn’t having that shit. The hippie boy (who was actually kind of cute, now that I think about it) sat to seat adjacently and I just asked the guy, “Why are you yelling at this woman? Is everything okay?” That pissed him off plenty and he started yelling at me (whiskey shot in hand — he seemed blacked out). He was about 50 lbs more muscle than me, and taller, and I kept saying this prayer over in my head: “He may hit me once but I’ll fuck him up with my bike lock (3x).” Before thought could turn to action, we pulled up to 12th St and a cop walked on the car and up to us and I remember it being one of the few precious times I was actually happy to see a cop.