I peeled out of the parking lot, furiously working clutch and gears despite the adrenaline induced tremor in my legs. Although the man was a good 50 feet away, my brain said to escape and so I did.
That was last week at 5:15 a.m. and today was a repeat, of the emotions if nothing else.
Leaving my apartment complex on that quiet Friday morning, I followed my travel normal routine… wheeling the red suitcase, tossing the trash into the dumpster, loading up the car and heading to the airport. I was extra alert that morning for no apparent reason. Perhaps because it was so still? No wind, no one about, not even the pack of feral cats that always hangs out in my corner of the property. So it came as something of a shock to the heart when I noticed the man staring at me from the dumpster enclave. He came from nowhere (although really, probably from behind the dumpster), and stood eerily still, just staring at me.
I couldn’t move fast enough. I lunged to lock the doors but missed the button and rolled the windows down instead. Cursing loudly, I rolled up the window, locked the door and threw the car into reverse simultaneously (it seemed), peeling out and breaking the silence.
For the next few hours, I couldn’t shake the intrusion of my personal safety bubble. While he could have been totally harmless, likely pissed that I woke up from his uncomfortable slumber, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of violation. What if, what if, what if? I’ve blogged recently about victims of unspeakable crimes and my melodramatic brain says, “What if it were me?” Of course, I had my mace out but what if I sprayed it the wrong way? What if it didn’t work at all? Could I fend off an attacker with my bare hands? Do I need self-defense classes?
Fast forward a few days and I’m leaving for class at 6:30 a.m., per usual. Leaving the house, I am hyper-aware of my surroundings: The wind is blowing, the stray cats are milling around and someone is walking a dog. There is no scary man waiting. Still, I hustle to my car, throw open the trunk and choke down the anxiety that the silent man is sneaking up behind me somehow. As I turn on the car and back out, the coast is clear until I spend too long staring at the dumpster area to see if someone is indeed hiding back there. Although I am certain now that I saw only shadows, the angles of dark and light made it seem as if my own personal boogie man were standing sentry. I nearly peeled out again and felt the bubbles of adrenaline shake my legs once more.
Although I think I’m overreacting–it’s the end of the semester and I’m not sleeping well–I still wonder about the what ifs. Can I tuck this episode away and relax? Will I ever walk to my car without wondering? Will I be able to take the garbage out after the sun goes down? On a good day, I struggle with feeling comfortable in this world. I know too much. I’ve heard too many stories and experienced too many tragedies. I know bad things happen. So?
At what point do we accept the chaos of the world and move along as best we can? Is it enough to just stay aware and be vigilant? I’m not sure. I just know that I will keep my little cans of mace around and appear as big and menacing as possible. (ha!)