By Jeeni Criscenzo
Sept. 28, 2018
 
I watched him, 
like an elk exposed on the plains, 
spotting a lion in the grass, 
hair standing at attention on the back of my neck, 
poised to bolt if he pounces. 
I listened.
 
I watched.
His predator nostrils widened.
His tongue flicked against his cheeks and lower lip,
anticipating the warm-blood taste of his kill.
I watched.
His eyes darted side-to-side -
Small comfort to realize I wasn’t in his sights.
He was sensing the presence of a threat.
The abuser accused, confused.
 
Do not bolt! 
Just because he doesn’t see you,
doesn’t mean you are safe.
Ancient survival instincts warned me 
that a cornered beast is the most dangerous.
Don’t take your eyes off of him for a second.
Don’t move.
Don’t call attention to yourself.
Wait and watch.
 
I watched. 
He snorted and sniffed. 
Acutely aware he was in the crosshairs
of a foe he didn’t know --  
his victims rising transformed, 
shedding the shackles of shame and self-blame.
I wondered
if I could shelter in their flame.
if I would not be his victim this time.
If right made might.
If justice could prevail.
 
I watched.
He snarled and roared.
It had always worked before.
Flaunting his power,
made his prey cower,
their children hide.
 
I watched.
He puffed larger and larger.
It had always worked before,
but his target was not vulnerable this time.
He must try another ploy -- 
feign weakness, hurt and wounded.
I recognized the ruse.
Didn’t everyone?
 
Don’t let that hyper-alertness falter.
he is still ready to pounce.
But his peers have never known 
being defenseless to a bully.
Never cowered in his shadows.
Never been the prey.
Never nursed the black eye the next day.
They fell for his cunning maneuver!
 
I watched.
I listened,
as one by one they gave him the empathy he craves.
Gave his lies validity.
Gave him the humanity he has denied his victims,
as his boys-will-be-boys birthright.
They praised him.
Encircled him.
Hoisted their wounded solider aloft on their shoulders,
a hero!
 
I realized I can never let my defenses down,
even from myself,
because what he did or didn't do doesn’t matter.
My humanity doesn’t matter.
Justice doesn’t matter.
Nothing matters.
 
They will praise Dr. Ford for her courage.
Call her decent and wounded.
They might even believe her,
but they don't give a shit.
I have cowered under that snarl before,
and my triggered senses scream out to her,
“You have opened your wounds and bled before them,
but behind their backs they have brought torches.
Not to light the shadows,
but to burn you at the stake.
Never, never let your defenses down!"

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