This all happened in four seconds.
The club is very crowded, very loud. The three of us are trying to leave to find our other friends outside. Navigating through a sea of people is hard enough, made even more difficult by the fact they are all dancing.
A girl gyrates in front of me, blocking me, and I lose my grip on Jess’s hand as she moves forward through the crowd. I glance back to see that Andy is still in tow.
Jess isn’t ahead of me by much, only a few feet. But it is enough space for the sharks to get the scent.
A pretty girl by herself.
Ripe for the plucking, one guy thinks.
He gets up on her. In front of her and on top of her at the same time. Blocking her, kind of. Looking down upon her, from above, like she is this piece of meat that he is about to dominate. And he seems confident that she is going to like it.
This is the moment when I can actually feel the effects of evolution, and I understand why we, as humans, survived. All it takes is seeing someone we love in danger and suddenly ten thousand things within our bodies are turned on, all at the same time, all for the purpose of protecting that thing which we love. And while all of those switches are turned on, the one that is turned off is the one that has been running our entire lives and never turned off — the one that tells us to protect our own bodies and to stay away from harm.
The blood is rushing to my brain. Gushing, shooting, flowing.
Perhaps it isn’t new blood being transported there. Maybe it is the blood that was already there, merely ignited into liquid magma upon seeing what I saw — someone looking down upon the woman I love with such blindness to everything that makes her beautiful besides just her physical beauty.
It isn’t a possession thing. It’s not a need to protect my girl, to ward off competitors.
She’s not mine.
She is me.
Fight, my body tells me, conveniently leaving out the flight option. It doesn’t wait for my brain to catch up. I look down and watch as my hands push aside the gyrating girl who caused me to lose my grip on my girlfriend’s hand.
As I get around the human roadblock, I see the scumbag’s hand reaching around Jess’s body, as comfortably and authoritatively as if he was putting his hand into his own pocket.
She escapes him though, the way a child at recess might escape the desperate, outstretched hand of whoever is “It” in a game of tag. And she gives him this look — God, I love her for it — that says, simply: “Not happening, dude.”
As I finally reach him two seconds later, I push him with my left hand. As I push him, I can feel the sheer power of his right arm, approximately the size of one of my thighs. He is also amongst a group of six or seven equally large men. This is a fight that I am going to lose (and lose badly) and it is funny how little I care.
Because it’s Jess, you know?
He raises his massive arms. Not to fight, but in an unapologetic shoulder shrug, that was as much of an apology as a shithead like him can muster.
It is the look that Jess gave him two seconds ago that probably saved my life. Because I saw how strong she is, how easily she can take care of herself. She had escaped the danger; she was never in danger. I’m still on autopilot-rage mode, but the look she gave him started the process of slowing me down enough to start the brakes and get my brain back to higher-functioning.
I walk on, but keep my head turned, watching him.
I’m not afraid that he is coming for me. Instead, I want to take a mental snapshot of him so that I can update my mental image dictionary, to include this motherfucker’s face next to the words “hatred,” “enemy,” “masoginist,” and lastly, “douchebag.”
He is turned the other way, though. Already moved on to the next thing. The next option.
But I see Andy. Like me, he’s standing there, turned around, also watching. He saw what happened and he’s standing erect, ready to fight, if need be.
Even though there are six of them and two of us.
I take a mental snapshot of my friend and mark it in my mental image dictionary next to “friendship,” “brave,” and “thankful.” I grab his shoulder and tell him to follow: It’s cool.
And I turn forward, looking for Jess. She’s standing there, arm outstretched. Towards me. This is how I will see her for weeks to come when I close my eyes.
I take her hand, become reoriented with love, and never want to let it go for four seconds again.
Love, as well as her hand.