On a cold, damp but bright blue day I was heading north up Commercial Drive in East Vancouver. I was standing on a corner, waiting for the lights to change, when a girl who appeared poor but very neat and tidy approached me. Perhaps I should say she appeared poor to me, but had obscured it so well that a casual onlooker wouldn’t necessarily notice. My brain, useless in so many other ways, is not idle when it comes to clothes.
She was about 22 and a mother, with a baby soundly sleeping in a stroller. Her athleisure attire was in good repair and was flattering but very far from new. Her sneakers were threatening to wear out within a few months. The baby’s things were secondhand too but likewise in very good shape. Both mother and baby were scrubbed clean. She seemed excited, not in a good way, perturbed. Although shaken, she wasn’t in distress, she was totally coherent. Without hesitation or any opening remarks she asked me, “Would you mind walking with me for the next two blocks? Someone is following me, but he won’t do anything if I’m not alone.”
Naturally I scanned the street as discretely as I could manage. Whatever may or may not have been going on, I easily believed that she keenly felt the need of company. I remember very well, too well for comfort even after all these years, how the sight of an older, reliable-looking woman was a ray of hope to me during distressing moments of my young life. It was an eerie kind of day. Very cold but not dry, wet but not raining. A spongy kind of day. The rainforest which had occupied the location of Vancouver for all of history is gone but it wasn’t killed that long ago, and it’s relatives aren’t that far off. There is a haunted quality to this city, most especially during the rain season. On a slippery day like this, I wouldn’t even step foot in Stanley Park, let alone any real forest.
Although nobody on the street jumped out to me as a threat or a follower, I enthusiastically agreed to walk with her, and encouraged her to talk, hoping that would relieve some of her stress. Without any other explanation she said, “He’s been following me up the Drive from the skytrain station, but my dad’s house is just up here, and he’ll never go there.” As we crossed the street, a car pulled up very close to us, unusually close. Even though there was a woman in the passenger seat, the car reeked of menace. “That’s him”, she said without looking at them, and quickened her pace. The car slowly followed us up the next block, until we approached her father’s house, when it then glided away out of sight.
The woman in the car gave nothing away but the man was so intent on intimidation that he gave me ample opportunity to scrutinize him. He was in his 30s, cocky, menacing and brazenly curb-crawling a girl with a baby in broadest daylight. He was easily explicable - a violent man. An eternal stereotype. The woman in the passenger seat, however, raised an emotion in me that I always try my very best to fight down: utter contempt.
She looked straight ahead in her seat and revealed very little about herself, other than the obvious - that she was his partner, both in romance and in this little criminal endeavor. Although skillfully made up, she was closer in age to the man. What would posses a woman to harass another, younger woman in such an outlandish, menacing way, especially a mother with a baby? And in such an oblivious and stupid way, by which I mean that they didn’t make any attempt to conceal their faces or the license plate, and didn’t seem to notice that they’d attracted an audience of more than just me and their victim.
When women go this bad, bad to the point of glorifying in a bad man, they strike at the most judgmental and unforgiving part of me. It could have been money that did it, but I felt that sexual jealousy was this bitch’s deal. The girl they were stalking was young, pretty, fresh-faced and fertile but didn’t seem wise enough yet to be choosing her sexual partners with greater care. The man was flashy and good looking, and I suspected that perhaps the existence of that baby was making both the man and the woman very angry.
The girl thanked me for walking with her and turned down my offers of further assistance, confident that her father would protect her. Despite wanting my theory tested, I didn’t ask if the man was the father of her child. She rewarded me for my trouble however by laughing and saying, as she locked the garden gate behind her, “Dad always hated him, and he hates him even more since the baby.”
That was a year ago today and I still often think, with difficult to suppress contempt, of that woman sitting in the passenger’s seat while her man curb=crawled the mother of his child. No doubt that her rage at the affair and the baby it produced motivated some of his behavior. Plenty of men will resent having an unplanned baby landed on them but few will go to these lengths without an extra factor - a factor like having the kind of girlfriend who won’t leave you for knocking up a younger woman, but will instead cling to you even harder, hardening herself in cruelty along the way.