Reading this article on Salon.com brought back a circus memory I had buried. All these years later, it always skeeves the hell out of me.
I was working as advance clown for a tiny little circus based in Saginaw, Michigan. This show did a fall and winter circuit of schools, armories, and town rec centers. I went ahead of the rest of the show and did promotional shows at elementary schools to advertise the circus. I'd leave free kids' tickets and talk up the acts.
As a single young woman on the road alone, I made sure to stay in family campgrounds, or behind the school, or -- if I couldn't find anything else -- a cheap motel. I called my mom frequently (collect!) to let her know that I was safe and sound. I even had a dog, a big friendly collie named Rufus.
I pulled into Ashland, Ohio one evening and found a beautiful campground fairly near the next venue. It had beautiful sites with power hookups, hot showers, and a full-scale excellent restaurant. I couldn't believe my luck. I was going to be there three days, doing school shows and waiting for the circus to catch up to me. I'd meet up with them at the venue, but until then I'd enjoy my pretty campsite in the woods.
There were lots of other campers, including an older couple who were staying in their little RV. We struck up a conversation one morning while I was walking Rufus. They invited me in for a cup of coffee. They were both so nice! They told me about their adventures in the RV world -- the wife had to drive, as the husband was legally blind. I told them about the circus life. They marveled that I was actually travelling alone, living in a Ford van with my dog, clowning around.
I thought I had made some nice new friends.
One evening, the husband waved at me as I was walking back from dinner and invited me over for a cup of coffee. Of course, I accepted. I popped into the RV and settled on the sofa behind the dining table as the husband fixed the instant coffee.
"I'm bach-ing it tonight," he said, all smiles. "My wife went into town to visit with her sister."
"Oh," I replied, not thinking anything of it.
We chatted a little more, and then... things took a turn.
He started talking about how he'd like to fuck me. In those words.
I tried to maintain my cool. After all, he was an old man! He was blind! But he was also bigger than I was. He was also sitting across the table from me, blocking the way out the door.
He kept talking about fucking me. His wife was gone; no one would know.
I told him I didn't do that. I told him I had a boyfriend. I told him to stop or I would tell his wife.
He told me she wouldn't believe me.
I got up. I decided that I would simply push my way out.
"I'm leaving!" I cried. "Get out of my way!"
"Not until you give me a kiss!" he said. At this point he was leaning over me as I tried to get up. His arms were stretched across the doorway. He was not going to let me leave!
I thought for a split second -- take my chances on pushing him down? Have him say I assaulted him? Or take my chances that he would let me go?
I pursed my lips and kissed him, as quickly as I could. He did not try to hold me and he did let me go.
In fact, he stepped aside and as I stumbled out the door, he called, "And thank you so very much for visiting!"
I ran back to my van, jumped in, and locked the doors. I laid awake all night.
When I left the next morning, the wife had returned. They both waved to me as I drove away.
I did not wave back.
I wish I had socked him. I wish I had screamed. I wish I had told his wife, whether she would have believed it or not. Why didn't I? I don't know. I do know that all I wanted to do was get away. I was only 25, four years removed from that terrible trauma.
I never told anyone, at least not for years afterward. And now, I have.