The Unlikely Encounter That Made Me Confront My Male Fragility
How stopping my car for a stranger changed my perspective on masculinity and service
I drive a couple of blocks and the streets get darker. As I near my Powderhorn home, domestic boulevards overtake the lights of the small commercial center in my rearview. It’s just past 11:30 p.m.
Outside of downtown, it’s hard to escape the modesty of urban life in Minneapolis. This is no concrete jungle, more like an overgrown prairie with lakes and sidewalks. But all that is frozen over now — winter holds its grudges.
I am trailing two cars, homeward bound, with no real sense of urgency. Before long, about a half-block in front of me, two objects appear in the street. These are not cars, but something smaller. I’m not sure what I’m looking at. It’s snowing again, and the flurry blurs focus like a pixelated television. Foot hovering over the brakes, I keep driving, prepared for any sudden stops.
As I get closer, I discern two figures. They walk urgently, weaving back and forth through the passing vehicles. I inch closer to the pedestrians, careful not to make the wrong move, especially on these Minneapolis streets where cars glide for yards on carpets of black ice.
The vehicles ahead of me swerve slightly and honk, avoid the first person, and drive away. As I get closer, I see that it’s a woman. She rushes toward my car, waving her left hand in the air. Her gaze meets mine as I pass. I see her eyes, wide and dark — they scream with fright, like prey.
I swerve out of the way, too, her body glancing past my driver’s side window. Despite the cold, she’s only wearing a tank top and jeans. She’s also holding the right side of her head, as if in pain. Her mouth is open, her face stretched sideways in what looks like exhaustion.
She’s tall, maybe five feet, 10 inches. Her skin is light brown, and she has messy, dark hair and deep-set eyes. My guess is she’s Native American, given her presence in this part of South Minneapolis. Most of our streets and lakes — hell, even the state — are named after Native peoples. Most now live in homes scattered around these blocks, but some are in the nearby projects off Cedar Avenue.