This is part of a series, “Scene from a memoir.”
Cornered on Bourbon and Canal
After driving from Connecticut for 28 straight hours through a winter storm that shut down Pennsylvania, we arrived in New Orleans exhausted, cranky, and starving, only to discover that we couldn’t get within four blocks of our hotel. The timing couldn’t have been worse as a Saturday night Mardi Gras parade was raging right outside our hotel, the hotel we couldn’t get near.
We ditched the car on a side street and set out on foot, dragging our suitcases and our children behind us along a sidewalk packed with people. Chaos surrounded us as people screamed and waved at the floats, seeking beads and attention.
I had heard that Mardi Gras in New Orleans could be family friendly, but arriving into this morass of people on the corner of Bourbon and Canal wasn’t it.
We inched our way through the crowd toward the direction of our hotel. My husband led the way, squeezing between people and bumping them with the luggage. The kids, two boys aged nine and ten, followed him.
I was bringing up the rear, which was where the guy behind me groped me as I couldn’t move forward. Alarms fired in my head.
My way was blocked, and I couldn’t move, so I did what any natural coward would do and pretended it didn’t happen.
He groped me again.
I turned around to give him a dirty look, hoping that would be enough. I saw a man in his 20s, standing there relaxed with a friend next to him. He burst out laughing.
I turned around to try to get away, and he groped me again.
Coincidentally, I would be taking my black belt test in Tae Kwon Do the next Saturday. I had been training for four years, and, while I was somewhat used to sparring with men, I had no illusions that I could beat one in a real fight.
And I had never been in a fight in my life. The closest I ever came was one time when some high school girls threw sandwiches at me, but I slunk off in the other direction.
At that moment, though, adrenaline surging, cornered, black belt ready, chaos all around me, I prepared to kick that man in the head.
I changed my stance. “That’s not cool,” I shouted. He laughed. I sucker-punched him in the chest. His friend laughed.
“Tell your friend that’s not cool,” I demanded to the friend. He looked a little less certain.
I punched the first man again, hard in his chest. His smile faltered. “That’s not cool,” I repeated.
His eyes flitted to his friend. I saw him back down, ever so slightly. This was no longer the silly goof he had bargained for. This was no longer fun.
My husband, behind me and a bit lost in the crowd, didn’t know what was going on, but knew it was bad. “Um, Mar, can we go?” He gestured to the children. I turned my back on the guy and inched forward into the crowd. He didn’t touch me again.
Later in the week, we saw a man in an altered state punching a police car, out of his mind and violent. It frightened me. I replayed my foolish actions on the street when we had first arrived and realized that I could have gotten myself into real danger. But at that moment, with that man, I was glad to wipe that smile off his face.