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Fight or Flight

January 5, 2012

I was in Barcelona driven by an urge to see Antonio Gaudi’s cut loose architecture. Wondering how a devout and practicing Catholic in 1880’s Spain could have been at that same repressive time so utterly released? For that matter, how about the city fathers who supported his psychedelic architecture?

It was Saturday, in a tiny hotel on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, right across the street from the Gothic church. My room was big enough for a large mouse, otherwise known as a rat, a room perfect in every way, a jewel in a jewel box. On Sunday in front of the church I was transfixed by the locals dancing the Sardana, hands held high in a circle, moving in precise steps to music so sad I actually cried.

Next day I took a bus out to Gaudi’s famous Park Guell. Even though I was dressed head to toe in clothes I’d bought in Spain, they stared knowing I wasn’t one of them. As the bus traveled, the neighborhood got more and more derelict until I was in a bad neighborhood and Park Guell.

100 kids yelled excitedly as they surfed the huge hairpins turns of the stairway whose railings were topped by enormous mosaic lizards, mouths open and smiling. Columns appeared to be melting, sculptures made no sense, pure fantasy.

My Nikon was slung over my shoulder and I headed up a path that looked less peopled. Once alone I was surprised by a teenager who appeared out of nowhere and walked in step with me. He was rail thin, probably hungry in retrospect, and had acne. He wore a grey crew neck sweater. He pantomimed to let him carry my camera and I was too embarrassed to say no. He took the camera and then with an inexperienced grope cupped my breast. The adrenaline kicked in. I was Wonder Woman, no really. My right hand grabbed the neck of his sweater and it ripped sweetly top to bottom like a sheet of paper. His face said, “How could you do that to me, this is my only sweater”? He was so surprised he dropped the camera and ran. I stood stock still for seconds, then as the adrenaline rushed back out I fell into a puddle on the ground.

I have always been comforted knowing that when it comes to fight or flight, my instinct, and all 4 feet, 11 inches of me, fights.

  1. Marylisa TEncer permalink

    Love the way you write…where is the rest of the story?

  2. Love the drawing and the story.
    Truly enjoy your work.


  3. Hey, C.P. I had a similar experience once that left me with the same feeling/knowledge. I was a college student, riding the Boston T into town from the suburbs. I was sitting next to a girl I didn’t know. This incredibly drunken belligerent lout came up to her and started leaning into her and harrassing her. It was awful. We both kind of cowered and shrank, and hoped it would end soon. All of a sudden, a loud voice started to repeatedly tell the man to sit down, just go sit down. I realized it was me. I’d never made a decision to intervene. The man started crying, and telling me “You didn’t have to do that” and then he got off at the next stop.
    Such experiences are indelible. Thanks for evoking that memory. We’re strong. We’re very strong.

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