The Moderating Influence of the Other Gender
by Howard Isaac Williams
Responding with an anger to exceed that of his adversary, the youth yelled and leaned his taut body toward his foe. The other young man stood his ground and yelled back. If either felt any fear, he showed none and both ignored the earnest pleas of their friends to avoid violence. And there on that pasture just outside Peshawar, Pakistan, a fistfight between two men might easily escalate beyond the boundaries of persons into battles between families, tribes, or entire ethnic communities.
The men standing around the two would be combatants knew their obligations to keep peace and felt those obligations even more. Elders and youths pleaded for calm. For the sake of ethnic solidarity, the two should make peace. For the holy cause of Islam, they should put aside minor differences.
But such imploring, so emotional yet so reasonable, mean so little to egos in conflict. The two angry youths cared only about the perceived insults to their manhood and forgot their masculine responsibilities to others.
And their friends were losing hope in their own efforts. If this matter did come to battle, each man on each side might have to stop protecting his friend with appeals to peace and start protecting him with fists or worse. Even as they tried to physically restrain the two would be combatants, they were watching others to see if any might take advantage of an opening to dangerously escalate this matter. And in this quite masculine society where women are rarely seen and never heard, didn’t some of these men yearn for the moderating hand of the other gender, so familiar at home yet so unknown on the street?
On the other side of the field, about 30 yards away, a water buffalo cow observed this noisy and potentially dangerous scene. Rousing herself from the near somnolence associated with her domesticated species, she grunted, then bellowed. Her hoofs pawed the ground. She swung her massive head in great expressive arcs and kicked out her forelegs, then bellowed again. She began trotting, then cantering toward the two angry youths.
Her charge first distracted the friends and relatives of the two adversaries who were still shouting at each other, apparently oblivious to the approaching danger much greater than each other. On she rushed, her massive bulk fixed like an arrow on a target just between the two foes. Now the crowd began to part but the two youths stood momentarily transfixed as the huge mother, her udder swaying, nostrils snorting, her mouth bellowing, charged toward the tiny gap between them.
At the last instant the two adversaries dove away from each other and the buffalo seized the contested ground, instantly stopping and occupying it with authority as dust rose all around her. The two would be fighters lifted themselves off the ground and dusted themselves off.
Now as all in the crowd regained their composure, they began laughing, none more than the two who had been so angry a few moments before. One man in the crowd turned toward another and asked, “Why did she do that?”
The other shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I guess she didn’t want them to fight.”
Howard Isaac Williams was a student of Professor Julie Young’s Spring 2016 English 35A class. He also has a Certificate in Labor Studies from CCSF from 1991. He lives in the Outer Mission and is a retired bicycle messenger and pest control technician.
From 1989 to 1997 Williams worked summers as an aid worker in Pakistan and Afghanistan assisting disabled persons. “The Moderating Influence” is a memoir of one of his experiences there.