I cut 23,000 words from BiBH for the final version that went to publication, but sometimes I refer folks to scenes in the book that now aren’t there. This is the scene that gets brought up the most, so for everyone who would love a little more memoir, enjoy some road rage.
Everyone I met through Susanne knew me as Everett. I didn’t ask whether she told them I was transgender or not, because I presumed I didn’t look very male, even though I’d been on T for 8 months. I had a bit of chin hair I had to shave every few days still, but other than that, I looked the same, at least to me. I still got the occasional second glance, but it had been a while since anyone had verbally or physically accosted me. So perhaps I was due for another flare up.
I was driving down to the cheap hair styling place in Virginia again, which was bustling with more traffic than ever now that a new grocery store and condominium complex had come into the neighborhood. It was a condominium “of rare occurrence,” as the billboard next to the highway touted, which made me laugh. So the condo building was only rarely in existence and other times not there at all?
I slowed down and stopped for a yellow light, and the car behind me honked. Looking at the driver in my rear-view mirror, I put my hands up to suggest I had no other options, and promptly forgot about him.
Four or five lights later—which in metropolitan DC means something like 8–10 minutes of elapsed time—I made my turn into the strip mall. The parking spot at the very end of the row, next to the salon was open, but I needed to back up to get the car in. I couldn’t back up though, and I saw that it was the same driver who’d honked at me back on the road. Slowly, it dawned on me that he was irate. He saw me looking at him quizzically and started honking his horn and screaming at me.
“Move your fucking car,” he yelled.
I was boxed in, unable to go forward or back, because he had pinned me. There was a two percent chance he didn’t understand I couldn’t move, but it was much more likely that he was nuts or homicidal.
“I can’t move unless you move,” I called back to him, and I felt my hands shaking.
He was out of his car and at my window, which thankfully, was rolled up.
“Get back in your car or I’m calling the police,” I shouted at him, through the unsturdy safety of quarter-inch-thick glass. To show him I meant business I held up my cell phone, which I was sure was a black blur to him, because I hadn’t gotten my hands to calm down and be still. Menacing I was not.
He walked back to his car, hit the reverse, and peeled out.
I spent a couple of seconds breathing, then figured I had to actually park. I pulled into a spot across from where I’d intended to leave the car.
I didn’t even think to look for him or his silver Jeep. The moment I was out of my car, he was in my face. He’d parked one row over from me and run out of his vehicle. What on earth had I done to set him off?
He was still yelling at me. “You fat freak! Motherfucker! I’m gonna knock your block off, you he-she!”
Years of defensiveness training for the Dyke March kicked in, and I attempted to talk him down. “You don’t want to hit me,” I said, putting my hands up like a boxer ready to fend off a head punch. “That’s assault. You don’t want to assault anyone today.”
Who knew what he wanted to do?
He was clearly sizing me up, seeing that I was a good 5 inches taller and 15 years younger him, and I probably outweighed him by 50 pounds. He was wearing a fleece jacket and had a beat-up baseball cap on his head. His chubby cheeks gave him the impression of being a big baby. He insisted on continuing to insult me.
“You’re a freak! You say one word to me and I’m gonna punch you!”
Get ready, I heard in my head. I felt my muscle memory coming back, reminding me what it felt like to get punched in the face, which unfortunately had happened a few times in my youth.
My next rapid-fire thought was more humorous: I really hope I still have some of that muscle-mass increase from the T. Before I even thought about it, I grabbed his punch before it landed on my face, and threw his hand down. It was surprisingly easy, either because he wasn’t terribly strong, he was half-hearted about it and not really committed to the punch, or because I was a lot tougher than I gave myself credit.
“That’s assault,” I said, like he needed me to give him a Kewpie doll for his effort. “You need to stop this now, you’re breaking the law.”
Even though I hadn’t been paying attention, several other people in the parking lot were watching and calling the police, taking down his license plate number, and running over to us to break it up. Before they reached us, he was walking away and still calling me names, but clearly the fight had gone out of him. Perhaps violence was tougher than he’d presumed.
One middle-aged woman gently asked me if I was okay.
“I think so,” I said, still shaking and unsteady. I felt out of sorts.
“I called the police,” she said.
“Thanks, that’s nice of you.” I chalked the exchange up as the second oddest conversation I’d had that day.
“So I’ll stay until they get here and give them a statement.”
A man loaded up with shopping bags was at my side next, and a young couple came over to say in broken English that they’d gotten the plate number as he’d driven off.
No sooner was he out of the parking lot than the patrol car showed up. The young, white cop had almost no interest in getting any information from anyone.
“Oh, I don’t need you to make a statement,” he told the woman who’d called him. She stood her ground.
“Well, I am going to make one,” she said. “This man just ran up to her and started hitting her. It was crazy.”
“What woman,” asked the officer.
They all pointed at me.
Well now, isn’t this awkward?
“Hi,” I said, raising my hand like I wanted to be called on by the teacher in class.
He took the license plate number from the couple, and noted that it was a Maryland plate. Maryland wasn’t exactly far from this part of Virginia, so I was surprised at his surprise.
“Well, I’ll run the plate, but it’s hard to do anything about these cases if there’s not an officer present to witness the assault.”
You’re right, I thought sarcastically, because the constant police presence in inner-city DC does so much to curb violence there.
Earnest middle-aged woman was there for me. “So you’re going to do nothing, then?”
“No, I’m going to open a case file on this and see if the plate comes back,” he said, like he’d just told her she’d won the Publisher’s Sweepstakes. She was unamused, and turned to me.
“Honey, I don’t think he’s going to do a damn thing. You better get his badge number and call his supervisor.”
Either she was super-helpful, a Girl Scouts troop leader used to dolling out advice, or a little kooky-slash-paranoid on the cop front. I nodded and said I’d pressure him.
The bystanders waved and wished me well, and then it was just me and the rookie cop. He continued scribbling on his officer’s pad and then handed me a business card—on the flimsiest cardstock I’d ever seen—that had the case number scratched on it. Maybe it was designed to dissolve in one’s wallet or when wet.
“Call me in a couple of days,” he said, handing me back my driver’s license, “and the precinct will have information on where we’re at.”
I went in the hair salon, after all that, shaking my head and knowing nothing would come of the fact that some random guy tried to punch me, for no apparent reason.
Inside the shop was abuzz with what had transpired out in the parking lot. “Are you okay,” asked one of the stylists.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, giving her my name and realizing that they were going to give me a woman’s cut no matter what I asked for that day. Another annoyance for the morning.
“Why was he so mad at you,” she asked, as we walked to her chair and I sat down.
“I have no earthly idea,” I said, and I closed my eyes through the cut, just waiting for when I could leave the jurisdiction.