We unloaded the kids from the minivan after our weekly family date night at the pizzeria. After we shuffled them all inside and started to wash the tomato sauce off of them in the tub, we sat them in front of the TV to watch their favorite show; America’s Funniest Home Videos. My two year old calls it “People Falling Down” and my one year old calls it “Cats”. Both are accurate.
With them snuggled in and clean I thought I could make a rare pre-bedtime escape. I whispered to my husband so my kids wouldn’t hear me; “I’m going to go out for a walk tonight. I’m tired of breathing recycled air in the gym. And I smell like a Gyro anyway.”
He followed me to the Mudroom to conspire with me out of the munchkins ear shot. He’s actually a really supportive guy when it comes to getting me out of the house. He gets that it’s a 24/7 zoo, complete with feeding times, outdoor schedules and so much poop. SO. MUCH. POOP.
He stipulated though, that I should stop at the market for a gallon of milk. Which would require a traverse through a section of town lined with bars.
I expressed my trepidation about taking a stroll at dusk, especially through that street. Because this is a town with an unstated and unofficial curfew and a burgeoning heroin crisis. The quiet townsfolk and families all retreat to their houses for the night, leaving the young, the drunk, the uninhibited and the downright crazy to run the streets without the pretense of being glued to societal norms, like urinating in toilets.
I am rapidly beelining toward middle age, hopelessly yet happily driven home at Nine pm by my internal clock, with only the draw of folk music or a contra dance to lure me out past my witching hour. I have become unfamiliar with the locals, I don’t know who to avoid and I admittedly just feel safer avoiding everyone. You get a little distrustful in old age I guess.
My husband’s response was to brief me in self defense, probably as a joke. But my jittery nerves saw an opportunity to prepare for the worst, so I took it.
My husband stands just a few inches taller than me, and maybe 50 lbs heavier. With three feet of kitchen space between us I thought he should be showing me self defense a little closer. For accuracy.
“Come pretend to tackle me! Show me how to do this!” I was just a little excited, like a kid wrestling his brother. I cajoled my husband into coming into contact with my extended arms, which he grabbed with two hands. He instructed me to swipe outward with my arms and reverse the grip of the attacker.
So I did.
Oh boy, I fucking did.
What happened next was so reflexive, and so primal that I even scared myself.
I used my arms to thrust his hands away from my wrists, and out to the sides. Then while he was recovering his balance I swooped in with my right fist closed and decked him in the jaw.
It cracked. We both heard the bone as it crunched under my knuckles. I was so sure I would be in deep deep shit with him for that punch. It was pretty unexpected, I mean, this isn’t a dojo, we were just being silly and practicing some lame defense stuff that would never work on a guy with a weapon. But here I was, with a sore hand and a husband with his mouth hanging so far open I thought a bat would come flying out.
He rubbed his jaw with his palm pretty gingerly and said, “Shit. It’s good to know I can still take a punch.”
And then I buckled in laughter. When I stood back up my husband grabbed my shoulders and said “Go for your walk. I if anyone messes with you they’re going to regret it.”
And I made it out after dark, alone. On the return trip past the row of bars I walked right by two men fighting and threatening to call the cops on each other. I steadied myself and walked right past it, unscathed and uninvolved but laughing as quietly as possible about that one time when I punched my husband in the face.