Sheena and the Geezer

Antigua is a half hour dog-eat-dog drive from the girls’s school in Guatemala City, the school for which I volunteer and visit at least once yearly. I’ve yet to visit the IMA School without at least a little time spent in nearby Antigua, the little gem.

Imagine: My travel partner, Deby, and I are enjoying a wonderful Saturday. Indigenous people and tourists alike fill this city of ruins, lush greenery, and bright colored colonial architecture. And history—we’re talkin’ super old stuff. As we are meandering through the crowds in an open market, Deby looks at trinkets and I am completely entertained watching the people, soaking in the culture.

Remembering that Deby didn’t have her cell with her, I suggest we meet back at the hotel if by some chance we were to get separated. Good deal, no problem, she says. We’ll try to keep ourselves together, but, you know, things happen.

Moments later, I casually look down and see a weathered little man, quite advanced in years sitting on the edge of the boardwalk. On the other end of his outstretched arm he is holding—and angling—a mirror. In that mirror’s reflection I see the underside of an indigenous woman’s skirt.

Aghast, I wag my finger in his face, “Hey! No! No! Bad! Bad!” The woman, also disgusted, pulls away. She gives him the stink eye and mutters something I cannot understand. But I can guess.

I feel conflicted—guilty—as though I were yelling at a dog. This is a human being. But still.

Deby, apparently still in earshot, asks me what is wrong and I think I answer. I am clearly beside myself, enraged, and aimlessly circle the scene of the crime, not knowing what else to do. We take a few steps away and she asks me again, “What’s wrong, what happened?”

“That dirty old man is looking up skirts with a mirror!”

A groan of disbelief and then a sudden proclamation, “Well, let’s go kick him!”

More than a little surprised by her idea but without missing a beat, I surprise myself and agree: “Oh, okay(?)” and we take the deliberate three or four steps back to the pervy old man still stationed in his spot on the edge of the boardwalk. He looks unfazed; all is right in his world.

Unsure what measures to take, we hover behind him for a moment. I realize he is oblivious of our presence and I see The Golden Opportunity. Like a black sleek cat who steals things, I snag the mirror right out of his filthy little hand. I see the unmistakable fire in his eyes as I grab it and pivot. As he panics and struggles to stand, reaching and sort of swinging, I say nothing to Deby, nothing to the old man—just hightail it across the cobble stone street. I see the policia and it occurs to me that perhaps I should tell them but that thought is overwhelmed by four immediate concerns: 1. The policia are corrupt. 2. The policia are corrupt with very large guns. 3. I am a woman in a terribly chauvinistic culture. 4. I am a woman in a terribly chauvinistic culture who speaks virtually no Spanish to corrupt policia with very large guns. So, I figured I ought to keep running fast. I run until I can be certain he is nowhere in sight, the policia nowhere in sight, and I can dispose of the hand mirror. Then I head back to find Deby.

It isn’t until the following day when Deby mentions that after I gave chase, she saw the pervy old man flagging down the policia to come after me. Now there’s some irony. And really, there was not all that much risk. I knew I could take him, at the very least could outrun him. Truth told, I did get a bit of a charge out of our crime-stopping feat. Something happened inside me when I saw that man abusing those women and potentially getting completely away with it. It sounded—it felt—a little too familiar. Perhaps I saw IMA girls in her face, perhaps I saw my own. Just another super productive day in Central America, for Sheena, Queen of the Amazon. I had righted a wrong. Maybe I’d taken back some of the power taken from me as a little girl. Was it smart? I dunno. But I’d probably do it again.

P Capone

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