In 1971 I had just finished a week-long international conference on drama in England, a week filled with tensions between me and the leader, an upper-class Englishman who didn’t bother to hide his racism and misogyny, as well as spending a day taking care of a psychotic woman. One of the participants suggested we visit Stratford-on-Avon as a way to relax after the intense week. We decided to go and see whatever was being performed at the theatre. Sounded like a good idea and we made arrangements. At the last minute, he had to change plans. I decided to go by myself.
I went to the theatre and bought a ticket for the evening’s performance without thinking about what was playing. Just being in the famed playhouse was a treat. After a light dinner, I made my way to the theatre, settled into my comfortable seat, and waited for the curtain to rise.
The renaissance play, The Duchess of Malfi, contains scene after scene of murder, betrayal, lust, torture, madness, guilt, and everything in between. I left the theatre stupefied, filled with the powerful emotions played out over the hours long play.
I had walked in daylight to the theatre from the small hotel where I was staying in about 15 minutes. Now it was dark, no moon, few overhead lamps, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to get back.
I had gone a few blocks when I noticed a group of males not far from where I was walking. Just to feel a bit safer, I crossed over to the other side of the street. They not only crossed over but walked quickly toward me. I thought of running back to the theatre, but they were too close and I wasn’t a fast runner. As they came nearer, I could feel my heart beat faster. My mouth went dry. There were four of them. One of me. They did not look friendly. No other people in sight.
One of them crooned, “Hello Sweetheart. How about a bit of fun?” His cronies laughed.
“No thanks,” I said, wondering if I could run across the street and out run them. Didn’t seem likely.
They all sort of cooed that I wasn’t being very friendly.
“I’m not in a friendly mood so please leave me alone.”
One of them moved toward me, his eyes cold and scary. “Why not? We’re all out for a good time. Don’t spoil the party.”
I was so filled with the emotions of watching the play that my response came without thinking. “You’ll have to party without me. I’ve had my fill of rape and murder. Hours and hours.” All the murder and mayhem I’d vicariously experienced spoke for me. “If you want a party, go see The Duchess of Malfi.”
“What’s that,” one of them asked.
“It’s a play, at the theatre. If you want a good time, go watch it. Plenty of rape and murder. Right now, you’ve got the wrong woman.” I felt a surge of energy—anger at the way the heroine in the play was treated. Anger at the four males wanting what I wouldn’t give them. Anger at the way men have used their strength and power against me for too much of my life.
I surged into a space between two of the men and walked fast, taking them by surprise. I kept walking as fast as I could without running, not knowing if they were following me but when I found what I hoped was a safe place to hide I huddled and waited.
When I couldn’t hear anything, I poked my head out from behind the barrel that was against a wall where I’d hidden. I couldn’t see anyone. I decided it was safe to keep going.
I had lost all sense of direction and was relieved when I saw two women walking ahead of me, I asked if they knew where my hotel was. They did and cheerfully offered to walk me there—an offer I gratefully accepted. “It’s too dark for you to be out and about by yourself, dearie,” said one of them. “You never know who you’ll meet.”
If you were ever in a dangerous situation, how did you deal with it?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.