It starts out like a lot of other days at the clinic. The green-vested chaser guy greets me by name as i come around the corner.
“Good morning, F,” he says, in this cheerful, we-are-good-friends voice. ”How are you today?”
He knows I won’t answer. Knows I don’t want him to talk to me. It feels slimy.
I ignore him, move on.
So I know it’s a mistake later when I say something to him. We are both approaching a van with two women in it. I’d seen them circle the block, the chasers had too.
He says, “I think they’ve got an appointment at A Woman’s Choice.” (The anti-abortion clinic.)
i shrug. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.
As it turns out they do, and that’s fine. But I can’t resist saying, as I turn away, “Ok, and you see how this works? They have an appointment there, and I walk away. I don’t try to talk them out of it, don’t harass them, I walk away. That’s how it’s supposed to work.”
Of course later, chaser guy says to me, “So, F, are you still working every day?”
I say, disbelieving, “Are you starting a conversation with me?” Then i shrug, sigh, “I don’t talk to protesters, you know that,” but I’m reminded that I broke my own rule, and resolve not to do that again.
That’s all just usual sidewalk stuff though. It’s towards the end of the morning when the car stops at the red light. The woman driving puts one hand, outstretched, over her face, as if trying to hide her eyes and watch the road at the same time.
When she moves her hand, I can see she’s crying.
R goes toward the car, pointing toward a parking place around the corner. I cross the street, stand by the open space so they can follow me to it.
Of course, the chasers follow me.
They get out of the car, the woman and her companion.
She’s crying, and we start to cross the street and the chaser next to me is walking toward her and he says, “You know why you’re crying, you’re crying because you know you shouldn’t be doing this,” and we get across the street and her companion steps up to the chaser, says, “Leave us alone!”
~ and shoves him, pushing him a little bit into the street ~
where he doesn’t get hit by the bus headed in that direction. Instead the chaser steps back up on the sidewalk, and never one to take a hint, keeps talking.
The companion shoves him again.
The woman and I keep moving up the sidewalk, she’s still crying, R joins us, the companion catches up with us ~ the chaser does too ~ still talking his usual stuff ~
The companion says, “Get away!” which the chaser ignores, the companion pushes him again ~
Two male escorts join us, T and P, and they’re talking to the guy, doing the “she needs you, this isn’t a good day to go to jail” thing.
The woman slows down, waits for him, she tries to tell him to stop, and i encourage her to keep moving ~ maybe that’s a mistake, but that’s what I do, I say, “It’s ok, he’s ok, let’s keep walking.”
The companion doesn’t seem out of control to me, angry, and a little scary, yes, but we keep moving and he does too, and periodically, he pauses to shove a chaser out of the way.
We make it through the gauntlet ~ Andrew runs up to help chase, and I think he gets shoved too ~ the companion keeps saying, “leave us alone, get away” but you know, chasers can’t really hear.
We step around Donna, who hands them literature and doesn’t say a word.
The preacher is on a rampage ~ as usual ~ he’s saying, “STAND UP FOR YOUR CHILDREN!! DON’T GO IN THERE! STAND UP FOR YOUR WOMEN AND YOUR CHILDREN!!”
The woman and the companion are through the door, the companion starts to come back out, but backs off again when A, the escort at the door says softly, “There’s no point ~ she needs you in there.”
And then she comes back out, the client. She stands by the door and yells to the preacher guy, ‘Excuse me!! Sir! Excuse me!!”
He’s still ranting, “Stand up for your children,” but he stops in midstream and looks at her. She isn’t crying anymore.
Everything seems to pause for a moment, it gets quiet.
She holds up her hand “stop!” and says, firmly and with great dignity, “I am. I am standing up for them.”
And she turns and walks back into the clinic.
The next time we talk about how escorts ”create space for (the clients) to be empowered,” I will remember that moment. That’s why I escort.