Self Defense

Hashimaki was an astronaut, what they call a “debris hauler”. He cleaned space of debris day in, day out, to make it a safer place.
On the job, he got caught off guard by the aftermath of a solar flare. The blast threw him into the void and into a field of lethal radiation. He spent hours there, screaming for his teammates and staring into the darkness for something to hold on to. Spinning.

The asymmetry of the earth’s gravitational pull was what saved him. It diverged the high-speed particles around him so he survived for long enough for his friends to find him.
He should have died. Instead, what he got was a small dose of radiation and more importantly, a trauma that made sensory deprivation (in other words, the dark) unbearable for him. It brought up vivid hallucinations, causing intense panic reactions within him.

The key to finding his peace of mind was the confrontation with himself. His unconsciousness materialized before him, bringing up the dream to own a space ship, his love for his colleague, the beauty of his work.
It also accused him of a lot of things.

“’I might die out there.’ But that thought actually came as a relief, didn’t it. You know a lowly junk jockey like you will never get his own space ship.”

It goes on like that, but the bottom line was that this accident came at a convenient time. An outside event to blame, as an excuse for not accomplishing impossible dreams.

So the story goes. “Planetes” is an anime (so you wouldn’t like it) series about Half Section, a bunch of clowns working tirelessly on a dead-end but, in a dysfunctional way, beautiful job in space. Hashimaki is the grunt, the one to get out there and collect stuff from bolts to satellites and live to tell the tale.

I relate to Hashimaki. Strongly. His rock ‘n roll attitude, slightly sociopathic streak and his way of expressing love for things like his job, fit neatly into my self-image. I too have dreams for the future. 
And so, I felt like I was addressed directly when his alter ego preached him into a screaming frenzy that ended with him headbutting his reflected psyche, which turned out to be a steel door. *Tunk.*

“Nothing to lose, right?” I often ask myself and others when about to do something I estimate has a decent chance of getting me seriously injured. It’s my way of steeling myself, trying to shed that special kind of fear that makes your limbs go weak. I’ve become rather good at it, which often makes my colleagues curse me for being stupid.

It doesn’t feel “stupid” at all to me, though. I don’t do it if I don’t consider it necessary but once I’m up there and in a comfortable position, I am concentrated, calm (though a bit short-tempered) and thus far, have always come down safely.

I have a fear of dying like everyone else, but at those short moments where I thought I would, it was hard for me to give a shit. When things start to wobble I might grasp on in a panic, but while the person next to me might go “Oh Jesus Fuck that was close,” I don’t really feel that way at all.

I don’t get why that is, and Hashimaki kindly pointed that out for me. Could it be because being immobilized would count as a valid excuse for not working to achieve my dreams? I don’t think so but then, I never gave the idea much thought. Now that I am, it seems less and less likely.
It might also be that a piece of me actually believes this ‘nothing to lose’ bullshit. I know for a fact that it sounds much less convincing when there’s something in the back of my mind (of the female sort, usually) and I do less risky things than when I can clear my head.

I like a little adventure. I need that fear, that adrenalin to make my day. On the job, I often find myself steadily increasing my risk taking until some near-miss happens, and I’m good for the rest of the job. I wish I could say that I’ll cut back now that I realize it might be the result of a little glitch in my brain, but I probably won’t. Not until I have something to live for, it seems.
Of all people to say such things.

When I die, I’ll probably get buried with my Leatherman in my coffin. Anyone who knows me, knows I carry a “pocket knife” at all times. Which it isn’t, actually: It’s a tool. I originally bought it for work and because of how useful it is, found myself missing it whenever I left it home. The only logical response seemed to be to carry it at all possible times, so that’s just what I did.

Faucet leaking? Car broke down? Killer comet? No challenge for this everything-but-a-corkscrew-in-a-chunk-of-steel.
“American quality” usually has a pretty lousy reputation here in Europe: From bulletproof vests to medicine, quality regulations aren’t half what they are over here, so most things “decent” from there won’t even pass as “acceptable”. But when it comes to pocket knives and tools, those rednecks know what they’re talking about.

A little side effect is that I am constantly wandering around with a knife. Again, by American standards that might be okay, but here it’s enough to get me arrested and fined. I can usually get away with the excuse “it’s not a knife, it’s a tool I’m still carrying from work” but the truth is, I am well aware that the stabbing of things, is among a Leatherman’s many uses.

This being said, I’d like to point out that in normal circumstances, I would never even think of pulling it out on anyone. I’ll get beaten up by an army of bouncer-type idiots long before I’ll consider pulling a weapon on any of them, even as an idle threat. Because I know that next time they go out, they’ll want to one-up what they might encounter and bring a blade of their own. This process is irreversible, so before you know it you’ll have the whole street toting knives. Nobody wants that.

I’ve been in enough fights. I raise my voice a little easily and it’s gotten me beat up plenty of times. Got the chance to deliver a few punches of my own, too. It’s nothing to be proud of, but there is one thing I like to congratulate myself for: There’s many things that go through your head; fear, anger and everything in between. There’s plenty things (probably even too many) I’m thinking of when getting punched in the gut, but “Oh that’s right, I’m carrying a knife” is not one of them. It literally doesn’t even cross my mind.

There was only one occasion where I was prepared to take it that far, and that was when I was walking a few girls home who had been harassed by a bunch of apes twice my size. I was alone and I felt there was a lot more at stake than my skin, if I’d get my ass beaten. It turned out otherwise.

Even though it stays in its pocket at all times, it gives me a vague sense of confidence that I could go that extra bit if shit really hit the fan. As a man, I generally have little to lose if I lose a fight, but if I find a female friend getting pawed, I’m happy to know that I won’t be shoved out of the way if things go too far and I come between. Again, mark my words, I have no intention of hurting anyone or even threatening to.

But this takes me to my point:
If I were a girl (you may now imagine Maarten as a chick), I wouldn’t leave the house without a knife, MACE, pepper spray or anything of that caliber, in an easy to reach position. It doesn’t have to kill or wound- I would just want the power to inflict some serious pain with the twist of a hand. Not to threaten people, but to seriously fuck a guy up if I ever find him on top of something he has no business with. It’s a simple fact that guys are stronger than girls and to walk the streets essentially defenseless doesn’t make sense, to me.

Whether it is myself, a friend or a stranger: The consequences of being overpowered as a woman, are more than I’d want to risk. I’m not talking cases of stupid bullying or groping on the dance floor, but the times when you’re walking home alone and some creep intends to have his way with you. I’m sure we all know at least one or two people who had it happen, and I don’t see why I would want to take the same risk. None of my friends carry any means of self defense as far as I know, and I find that outright dangerous.


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