Sunday, October 03, 2004

Something Different for Sunday

This is a piece I wrote some time ago. The idea is that the woman in the story is talking to her own image in the mirror. The usual warnings about taking self-defence advice from people like me apply.

How Do You Make A Fist?

How do you make a fist? What would you do if someone choked you from behind? Are you always doomed to be the prey for the silent hunters of the night?

So you were brought up to be a good girl, a little ray of sunshine in this world of shadows. You treasure the fashionable frailty of your arms, the elegant arch of your tiny foot in the high-heeled shoe. You were a good student and learned that all this is good. You learned that you are weak, in need of protection, that no woman can defend herself against the evils of this world. Your goodness was the only cloak that covered you.

It isn't enough. You sit inside at night and watch the dark windows. What moves behind the streetlights which never seem to light anything? What rustles in the bushes by your door? How many locks do you need to keep the disquiet at bay?

We are all weak, but you have thrown away what strength you had. You have become prey, carefully plucking out anger, ignoring the rage that lives below your heart, letting the fear paralyze every cell in your body.

But you have a body for other purposes, legs to carry you away, arms to lift, eyes to observe, ears to listen. You can smell danger, taste it in the air. Your body wants to take the hot rage and coax it into a fire which will keep you warm, keep you safer. Your body wants to be strong and fast and good.

So how do you make a fist? You don't know? Go and find out. Never mind if you are thirty-five or sixty-five and afraid that people will laugh at your ignorance. You can learn it. Then learn how to use it. Think of all the soft, frightened places of your body: the eyes, the nose, the temples, the curve of your lips, the open neck. These are the places the hunters also have and these are your targets.

Learn to kick. If you love to dance you'll love to kick. You can learn the dances of death if you need to. It doesn't make you a hunter. Go and find out. You won't master them overnight but you will master them. Learn to be the one who leads in this dance and you'll sleep better, walk lighter, dance longer.

You don't believe this. Your education has prepared you well for the life of a prey. You believe nothing you do could ever work, could ever help. You have never studied the weapons of your body, the power of your rage; yet you are convinced of their failings. Go and find out. Seek the teachers of these arts. You'll be astonished.

You must learn to fight dirty. This can save your life one day. You can still be a good girl, only now a good girl who fights dirty. Dirty means smart. It means finding the weaknesses in the hunter who has you in his maws and attacking them fast. Dirty means staying alive, and staying alive is good.

All this will take time. The more time you put into studying your body as a weapon the more likely it is to buy you more time one day. But even a few moments of study is better than nothing. Kindle the fire in your stomach. It will melt away the frozen paralysis of your fear.

To conquer your fear you must enter it. What is it that you fear the most? Imagine it as if in a movie. Then rewind the tape and go back, step by step, asking "What should I do here?", "And here?". Add your rage, the moves of your body fighting for you. Edit until the story ends in your victory. Then make it even better. Keep working on your fears until you know that you are no longer the rabbit frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car.

Find out what you need to stay safer. If you feel weak make yourself stronger. If you feel slow practise and you'll get faster. Learn to plan, to anticipate. Stay present when in dangerous places. Know where the exits are, where safety lies. Choose your company with care.

If you do this you'll find the fear shrinking, almost disappearing. Only what is common to all people will stay. Your body will be freed to live as it was meant to, your mind will have some peace. This is the first fight your new skills have won you, and if you are lucky, it might be the only one you ever need to win. This alone is worth all your hard work.

Look at yourself in the mirror, now. Can you see the power uncoiling? Doesn't it look good on you? You look like someone who knows how to take care of herself. You look like someone who knows how to make a fist.