I was waiting for my friend Andrea in front of one of those neighborhood ponds that are so common in Dutch cities when I heard a big commotion across the street. A pair was in the middle of what appeared to be a fight. At first, I didn’t know what to make out of the whole situation, because I didn’t speak their language. I wasn’t sure if they were actually fighting or if that was just the way they expressed themselves, but she was clearly shouting and trying to walk away from him. Her follower didn’t say much—or much I could hear, anyway—, but he was chasing after her insistently. Whenever he would get too close, she would change direction to evade his attempts to corner her.
I watched the entire scene as they got closer to me, trying to decide if I should do or say something, but I had learned that in those cases it was better to let them sort it out. I remember that my grandfather used to tell a story of a day, back in the fifties, when he punched a man who was beating his own wife in public and the woman started yelling at him to leave her husband alone, among hysterical insults and threats. I decided to keep an eye on them, however, just in case I had to step in at some point. In the meantime, they had crossed the street and her shrieks had gotten louder, and what I thought to be more desperate, as she eluded him over and over.
As far as they were concerned, I didn’t exist. Urban living had taught them to ignore my kind, but I remained there, trying to make sense of the situation. Suddenly, he jumped closer to her and revealed his intentions. As if nobody was watching, he tried to force his body upon her and she quacked as loud as she could. That’s when I realized how distressing the situation really was. I had to do something. I could not let it happen. I was the only one who could stop him. I walked over to the male and began shushing at him, waving frantically, and kicking in the air around him. I don’t know if that’s how you scare ducks away, but he got the message, fortunately, and headed back to the pond. “I don’t care who or what you are,” I said, “but no means no!”
As I walked away, telling Andrea about the whole episode, the female duck continued to quack incessantly. I would like to think she was glad that I had showed up; that I had rescued her. Nevertheless, I could not help thinking that all those final quacks might have just been hysterical insults and threats directed at me for interrupting their mating ritual. It was spring after all.
Hugo R. Vargas