"The gypsy fight" in the parking lot

Back in my apartment, I heard loud and high-pitched screams as if several people were in life-threatening danger. The screams did not stop, so I went to the window and looked out. In the parking lot behind a couple of trees, I saw the legs of a woman kicking fiercely. I also saw a whole bunch of women in traditional skirts. I could see that other people from the block of flats were outside watching. The yelling continued, and I thought it best to go out and take a look. I even thought that someone could be harassing Rosita because of me.

The other residents were gathered at a safe distance. I wanted to go nearer and see what was going on, but I did not get any closer than a couple of cars away from the main stage. The two little girls from Rosita’s apartment were hiding behind one of the cars, and they were crying with tears running down their cheeks. I asked them what was going on, and they told me that their mother and aunt were fighting. I saw an upset unknown woman with blood smeared all over her mouth and to me it was a truly scary sight. I turned to the girls and asked them if anyone had hurt them, but they shook their heads. A man approached the girls and told them to go inside, but they did not want to. I told them to come and sit with me in the swing, and so they did. They sat there for just a little while, and then ran back to their relatives when the situation had calmed down a bit. I could still hear the angry sisters screaming, but I could not catch the words. The only thing I could hear was the older woman from Rosita’s apartment encouraging the two women to fight each other.

It felt like I had a ringside seat in a theatre during a very realistic and scary play. The stage was the parking lot between the garage and the dust bins, and the actors were convincing in their roles. It felt as if the participants in the fight were conscious of acting in front of an audience, like they were staging their “gypsyhood” in a strange strategic essentialist manner (Spivac 1993) in front of a grateful audience who, once again, got their prejudice manifested. The non-Romany audience, once again, got confirmed how “those gypsy people” behave. My eyes met the eyes of the younger woman from the apartment, and what I saw was something that I interpreted as a combination of pride and challenge - this is how we, the “gypsies”, are. This woman chose another way than Rosita did when coping with stereotypes about the “gypsies”; it was like she acted them out through her challenging gaze. Earlier that day I had asked to know more about Romany culture, and now I got it shoved into my face. It felt like Rosita and the rest of the persons in the parking lot were enacting the type figures of “The Romany” and "The Gypsy” (see Stranden 2010).

Rosita was, of course, outside as well, trying to put an end to the fight. I approached her to ask what the whole thing was about, and she said that it had been just a little fight between sisters, and that everything was all right by now. I felt strange. I had just been given the role as a border-being, someone with passage to two different spheres, although a limited passage to one of them. An hour earlier, I had met three of the women and the two girls back stage on their home ground. I had been friendly and shown my interest towards them, despite my feelings of uneasiness. During this short period of time, I felt that I had won some kind of confidence — I thought I was given a back stage pass. I did not behave like the rest of the non-Romany audience. I reached the edge of the stage which changed my role into a walker-on, someone without a part of her own. But I was an actress without any screenplay. When I approached the stage, I felt unsure whether or not I would become physically or verbally assaulted as I was stumbling around in the play "The Gypsy Fight”. I was really surprised when the two girls let me lead them away from the stage into the side stage when their male relative did not succeed. At the same time. I felt that I had gained some kind of respect due to my acting. I did not put my nose in, I did not try to break the fight off, but neither did I stand far away and watch the spectacle from a safe distance. I felt alarmed, but I wanted to act like a “good citizen”, and I was happy with my role, which I felt was a success.

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