Well, poppets, I had an interesting evening out.
To recap, I am in my native Toronto, visiting my family and my friends, old haunts and new dives. It's great to see my loved ones and to see the town from the perspective of someone who hasn't seen it in a year. I enjoy hearing people's news, and I enjoy having news for people. My literary friends are thriving: this one won a major award, that one's latest book has gone into its second edition. It's great.
Yesterday I went with a literary pal to a poetry night and met another one there. The joint, as they say, was jumping. To my surprise, the first poet to read was a former prof of mine; I hadn't seen him in almost twenty years, but I've always remembered the fascinating stories he told us in class about the Canadian poets he'd met. After he read his work, I went over to him, introduced myself and told him that I still remembered what he had said about Elizabeth Smart twenty years ago. We chatted amiably for a bit and then I went back to my friends.
What is remarkable about this is that five years ago (let alone twenty) I would have been too shy. I would have sat behind my table agonizing "Should I or shouldn't I? What if...? But on the other hand...?"
But last night I didn't feel a qualm. I didn't feel self-conscious. It just felt like the most natural thing in the world, to go up to a now-famous prof and say, "What you said then sticks with me even now." Maybe it's one of the gifts that comes with having real books with your name on them. Or maybe it's the gift that comes with age if you didn't have it young.
Other poets read. The open mic (as in microphone) performances began, and the featured speakers and their friends began to drift downstairs, out of the bar. My old prof waved to me, and I thought of my business cards in my little zippered card case. I keep all my cards in it--bank, credit, library--so I took them all out to look for the bright bit of cardboard. And the guy across the table from me, known to my friend but a stranger to me, made a sudden swooping movement with his head and plucked away my bank card.
This stranger looked in his fifties, bearded, balding, small, nondescript. He had an English accent; B.A. would have been able to peg "what" and "where" at once. He had been introduced to me, and told where I lived, and that was necessarily the extent of our conversation.
But I wasn't registering all this when he snatched away my bank card. My heart froze, and I made a lunge. He opened his eyes in playful mockery and held my bank card out of reach.
I hit him with a beer glass. No, I didn't. I gave him a look that melted his face--or certainly scared him enough to give my card back. I shoved it in my card case, shoved card case in handbag, picked up my coat and announced "I'm leaving." Then I left.
Downstairs I thought regretfully of my startled girlfriends upstairs, my beloved girlfriends whom I hadn't seen in over a year. Was I really going to walk out on them because they were sitting with the kind of man who thinks it flirty and funny to steal a stranger's bank card and hold it out of reach?
Yes, I was.
On my train, I pondered my hair-trigger reaction. Five years ago, I am reasonably certain, I would have smiled weakly and been "nice" about it. Perhaps I would have, as expected, made sad doggy eyes and mimed supplication, politely silent as the open mic poet banged on about what a rotten world it is, while my heart fluttered with panic.
But not now. Now I have zero tolerance for the inappropriate behaviour of male strangers. Just as I can approach a literary lion, I can walk away from a literary loser or any other man who evidently thinks he is being "playful" when he is simply being a drip.
Go and do likewise, my little Singles.