You don't know her, or maybe you do. Either way, I'm not giving out her name. She's younger than I, but not so young that she would fail to recognize Usenet, which is where we met some time around the turn of the century. I had a vague idea of what she looked like, and in subsequent years that idea would become progressively less vague. And she loved to sing: she wrote songs of love, songs of melancholy, songs of impatience, songs of dismay, accompanying herself on the electric piano, an instrument I never could stand until she made it sing along with her.
It would have never occurred to me, of course, to give chase: she was a thousand miles away, and I didn't think there were sufficient shared experiences to justfiy merging two sets of memories into (almost) one. And massive talent, which she had, to this day tends to put me off: with so much going for her, she clearly had better things to do than to gaze longingly at me. And so she ended up in the If Only file, in the company of several women who, quite unintentionally, somehow managed to push my buttons.
And then it happened. Lurking in the darkness, there was a male — he doesn't deserve the title "man" — who saw this young woman, dressed to kill, legs to die for, and decided he had to have her, one way or another. He chose to force the issue; she resisted to the extent that she could, and the scuffle eventually drew the attention of men in uniform. The culprit made a run for it; the victim wept.
We didn't know about this until she decided she would tell us. You can't really hear a flat, defeated monotone from ASCII characters on the screen, but there it was. "I am not so beautiful," she said, not entirely persuasively, "but from now on I shall be ugly. Hideous." I had my doubts: she could hide her light under a bushel of dowdy sub-thrift-store outfits, I thought, but still the light will shine, and besides, the general run of rapists and wannabe rapists seemed less interested in eye candy than in getting their dubious "needs" met. And I knew that in some circles, at least, she would be blamed for the incident, simply by attracting attention to herself. This would explain her willingness to diminish her appearance; but she shouldn't have to do that. And she lives in a place where it's dificult to obtain defensive weapons, mostly because the powers that be consider them to be offensive weapons; even were it not so, I couldn't imagine her taking arms against a sea of street scum.
Which brings up the question of why I would dream about this incident, years after the fact. The most reasonable explanation is that at some point I saw her face, filled in the scene with the rest of her, and then the whole story came tumbling on stage. It's odd, to me anyway, to have a dream in which I cannot actually participate; all I could do was watch at a distance, my Damsel In Distress sensors turned down to minus 11. Perhaps this was intended as a reminder that I should not do things it would never occur to me to do in the first place. But more likely, I think, it was intended to note that we are all threatened by people like that, and the sooner they're taken out of circulation, the better.
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Copyright © 2019 by Charles G. Hill