HAVANA TIMES — Recently, I had the misfortune of witnessing an incident which stirred up in me many of the emotions I described in my post “The Serious Issue of Machismo.”
I was in a truck-bus with my son headed for Havana’s municipality of Cotorro. On the way, a couple, two teenagers who had shown signs of friction when they got on at the stop, began to argue.
The girl had refused to sit down (perhaps in a show of defiance) and would not stop recriminating her boyfriend, who become more and more agitated and ended up yanking her hair and slapping her on the face.
Unable to contain myself, I yelled:
“Hey, kid, what’s that all about?!”
For a moment, the two appeared to put their emotions in check. They continued to argue in a lower tone of voice. The elderly gentleman sitting beside me then said to me, somewhat worried:
“Please, don’t intervene, it’s just asking for trouble.”
There was no question in my mind he was right, but I couldn’t help but worry about the girl, who was very thin, as opposed to her partner, who was fairly well built.
Outside, a storm had broken out. The driver made a stop to lower the protective canvas at the sides of the truck and keep us from getting soaked. Shuddering with each roar of thunder and flash of lightning, I saw that the young girl had started to cry. Apparently, she was asking her boyfriend to go back with her to the truck. Neither of two had anything to shield themselves from the rain with.
I thought of helping her…but how? I couldn’t exactly get off the bus and I had only one, damaged umbrella, which I was sharing with my son. The deafening roar of the thunder, the heat inside the vehicle that had been sealed up with the canvas and the feeling of being stuck in an overcrowded space distracted me for a few minutes.
Suddenly, the man sitting next to me nudged my arm to point out the couple to me. She had sat down on his lap and, hugging, the two were whispering things and caressing one another.
“See?” the man murmured. “Best to stay out of that sort of thing.”
I gave him a half-agreeing, half-doubtful look. The still-tearful eyes of the young girl, leaning against her boyfriend’s shoulder, expressed shame, self-recrimination, disappointment.
It wasn’t hard for me to work out where that confused tangle of feeling would take her: pride would silence guilt and fear and make her feel more and more insecure, unless someone lucid enough helped her decide to break up with him.
It wouldn’t be her boyfriend, most probably, who perhaps isn’t really a bad kid and had no intention of going so far. But, now that he’s gotten there, will he resort to violence regularly, tempted by his physical advantage over the girl, spurred on by rage? The gentleman next to me had said to me earlier: “She’s been provoking him for a while…”
It’s a deeply-rooted cliché, and I even know of women who (secretly) underestimate men who don’t “put them in their place” if they overstep the mark. Truth is, going over the limit debases both partners. No one should overstep the mark.
Yes, it’s a thorny issue. In the tangle of human relationships, and in the unavoidably complicated sexual relation, a couple can enter into a game of opposites that is often morbid. The mutual psychological dependence that can develop in a relationship is not easy to uproot and, in most cases, couples don’t even attempt to break the vicious circle.
I have never been able to suppress the impulse to go in aid of the weaker person.
The somewhat crushing conclusion of my fellow traveller, however, reminded me that I would be exposing my son to danger, as during the incident that prompted my previous post on this issue, when a friend was kicked by her partner (the father of her child) in the middle of the street, while she was carrying the little girl in her arms. Days later, they made up.
I thought then about how rage and passion can hypnotize us, make us so selfish. If it is true, as they say, that no one should meddle in the affairs of a couple, neither should we make anyone an unwilling witness of our personal problems and resolve our conflicts in private.
As the rain let up and my stop got closer, I couldn’t help but bring to mind a prayer I saw, posted on the wall of a house I visited: “Lord, help me accept that which I cannot change, to change that which I can, and to know the difference.”