Today I took my son to math tutoring. It is right in town. Right here. Maybe a 15-minute walk from our place. It is on a major road that leads to the freeway and is always full of traffic. It was around 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday. I decided that after parking and watching my son walk to the building, that I would go over to the store across the street. We needed soap and shampoo. I walked out of the parking lot to the corner and waited for the light to change so I could cross the street.
I happened to look back and there was a man walking towards me. He looked a little disheveled and it seemed as if he had writing on his face. He was not young. He was not old. The light did not turn fast enough. He came up next to me on the corner and said, “hey lady.” I turned to look at him and said “hello.” He was curly haired and the letter “N” was written on one cheek and the letter “O” on the other (very Charles Mansonesque). He said it again and I replied the same way. He said it again. And I ignored him. Then he said something vulgar that made me feel uncomfortable so I turned and walked away. I was a little nervous putting my back to him but I did it. I walked the other way up the sidewalk passing a young girl (better me than her I figured). The man yelled out but he had crossed the road we had both been waiting to cross.
And, at that moment, my significant other (LKY), happened to be driving up Piikoi St. and, believe it or not, witnessed the entire incident. I have to admit, that turning my back on that person and walking away made me a bit nervous. LKY, made a turn out of the freeway lane and pulled up on the small side street I was walking along. The first thing he yelled out the window to me was to ask me what the guy had said to me. I knew that if I told him what was actually said, there could be some violence, which given the vulgarity, would not have been unwarranted. But the last thing I want is for him to be accused of assault, even if in his mind he felt justified. So rather than telling him, I crossed the street and jumped in his vehicle where he ferried me safely to where I was going. A ten second drive. But one that I was pretty grateful for.
I have to admit, after that, I was looking for that guy everywhere. Once I left the store to walk back to tutoring. Driving through my neighborhood. When I went out to my car. Later, at home. This was especially true since I had been watching a movie called The Babadook. It was creepy goodness from beginning to end. I felt like that guy with the writing on his face was standing outside my sliding glass door. Maybe lurking in my closet. It was not a good feeling. My own personal Babadook.
And I suppose it would have been better, easier, for me not to engage with the person at all. But I just couldn’t be that rude. To just ignore someone. In retrospect, maybe not the best choice. This morning we ended up at the long Sunday Hawaiian mass (we were unable to attend our short, informal Saturday evening mass). And, as non-religious as I am, I have to plug Pastor Moki at St. Andrew’s Cathedral whose sermon today included passages from Elton John’s Rocket Man. But, I digress. In the midst of the reading of the gospel in Hawaiian today, a homeless woman began sort of marching towards the altar up the middle aisle of the church. It was one of those moments. One of those moments where you are unsure if you should tackle the person or engage on a human level. One of the church volunteers sort of put their arm around the woman as she got up towards the altar and steered her towards a pew in the back of the church. And that was it. No vulgarity or violence.
So maybe my initial inclination was correct. To approach the situation with a touch of humanity. The outcome will always be unknown but I can’t not continue to go with that humanity bit. I don’t think that I could go any other way. And although my experience was not the best with the Babadook, I’m not sure that I could have completely ignored him talking to me. Maybe I was going to be the only person who talked to him like a person all day. Or the only one who guided that person to a safe and proper place. I could not lose that despite, the obvious drawbacks. Today, when we left church we took two pre-made bags to hand out to those who may be in need of a little kindness (and toiletries). I don’t know if we would offer this to the Babadook but maybe, maybe, we would still try.