Sam Gordon is Not the Problem...
So there I am, riding along Interstate 76, headed for Washington DC to launch my presidential campaign, the first copy of Beyond #MeToo: Men Are Not The Problem tucked into my backpack at my feet, (link to NE site) when suddenly I’m awakened from my nap by Ember. “Chris. Chris! I think we’re gonna run out of gas. What should we do?” Naw, I think to myself, looking at my map, the gas station’s just ten miles away. Looking closer, I can see that although the gas station is ten miles away, the drive is thirty miles.
I rustle myself awake and glance around me at the rolling hills and thick, green forrest of Pennsylvania. Makes sense, I think, they had to carve the roadways out of this beautiful, mountainous countryside. One thing about Ember is, she’s committed to being light and fun, no matter what the situation. “I’ll just pull of here,” she says, pulling off onto the turnpike, “there’s a police station here, and they probably have a gallon of gas they can just give us.”
Whenever Ember says things like that, I find myself somehow side-stepping my own skepticism and lofting myself into her bouncy, high hopes. Maybe there will be some gas here, I think, trying to ignore the slight sinking feeling in my stomach. We turn onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike (which, before this trip, I had no idea what a “turnpike” even was), and Ember hopped out of the car. Before I could stop and remind her we were essentially in the middle of nowhere, and paint a little picture of all the terrible things that could happen to her, she was already pouncing lightheartedly off into the huge, metallic building labeled “Municipal Police Station.” So I kept my own horrible visions to myself, and they kept me busy while she disappeared behind the red, metal door. They’re police, she’ll be fine, I thought to myself, followed by they’re police, is she safe?
One of the ways post-rape pain shows up, is in a remarkable ability to imagine terror. What before may have been a speculative thought that vanishes in a moment, now becomes embellished with detail. Horror stories fill the mind in surprising detail and color, and feel not like distant, unlikely possibilities, but like clear and present danger. Depending on the nature of the trauma, the healing process, and the time that has passed, we can usually recognize we are exaggerating a possible danger, maybe even calm ourselves down. Oftentimes, this hyper-vigilance and keen ability to imagine terror leaves us in an uncomfortable place, with all of our biochemistry firing as if the danger were real, but also the awareness that most likely it is not. Since (at least in part) we know the danger that we feel as real is actually imagined, we don’t fly into fight or flight, but still our body chemistry is firing in such a way that pushes us to fight or flee. This contradiction between mind and body is intense and anxiety-provoking. Sometimes, these are the moments we dissociate, mind and body splitting off from one another so we can have are fear reaction while we stay sweating in our seats. Then, we begin to worry about the people around us. We know at some level that our reaction is not appropriate to the situation, and so we become worried about what people think, what we look like to others, and how we will possibly explain this strange thing happening in our minds and bodies. The disjointedness within our already fragmented mind expands itself into our relationships and our communication. Usually, we stay silent about the whole thing, assuming the person or people we are with would never understand, and knowing that in the state we are in, we could never explain. The silence further separates and detaches us, both within and from community. This worsens the dissociation, and then we are like Alice in Wonderland, falling, falling, sinking and small.
Enough time has passed, and enough healing has occurred , that at this moment in the car among the Appalachians on the Pennsylvania turnpike, I am not having an anxiety attack, but simply noticing my Nightmare-On-Elm-Street thoughts as they drift by and I focused on my breath. (link to 5 deep self-hypnosis breaths) This will make a funny blog entry, I think, as I see Ember emerge from the police station, empty-handed and alone, but smiling.
”There’s nobody in there,” she reports, shrugging, “not a soul in sight.” We look around together, noticing the lovely, eery calm and the rich, golden tint cast on everything by the setting sun.
“Feels like we’re in a storybook,” I say, for there is not a single thing in motion, except the two of us. Without another option, we decide to walk to the gas station, and to enjoy the walk. Mustering up our positivity, we head joyfully off, in the wrong direction. “Hey,” I say, pointing off to my left at the faded denim-clad rear-end of an elderly gentlemen, bent over watering his tomatoes, “there’s someone!”
The thought that we could be shot enters my mind briefly, as we walk up the driveway, smiling.
It isn’t until we’re about three feet from him that Mr. Gordon notices us, for as it turns out, both he and his small dog are practically deaf, which is why he stands about eight inches from Ember’s face, as she introduces us. I’m thinking, why is he standing so close to her? This guy’s probably a creep.
Once he lip-reads our predicament, he smiles and says, “You’re out of gas! I’ll help you!. He hobbles off into his garage to find a gas can, emerging a few moments later with an expression of concern. “I can help you,” he says, peering closely at each of us in turn, “but there’s just one problem.”
Ember’s smile fades just a little, “Oh? What’s that?”
“Well, there’s two of you ladies,” he says, “and just little old me, and I don’t want any of this Me Too stuff.” I can hardly believe what I’m hearing. “So tell me, do either of you drive?”
Mr. Sam Gordon, I kid you not, gave us, complete strangers, the keys to his brand new, shiny maroon pickup truck and very detailed directions to the nearest gas station. Then, he graciously posed for this photo, hovering his hand above my shoulder, careful not to touch.
He shared that his wive of 67 years had died this exact date two years prior, and he was happy to see us because he was really missing her this night. I said goodbye with a the biggest bear-hug I could muster, a wonderfully inappropriate and unexpected kiss on the cheek, and a complimentary copy of the book. (link)