Woo. I almost just got mugged. Or worse.
After a night of baking pumpkin bread (well, consuming pumpkin bread. I didn’t actually take part in the baking) and watching the original version of Beauty and the Beast with one of my lady friends, I stopped in to have a margarita at my favorite bar. I tutored the bartender’s daughter in chemistry this spring, and he wants me to help his other daughter pass a test now. I’m not good with little kids but I’m great with teenagers. I still remember what it was like to be one and can relate. I took a car service there, $6 to anywhere in your neighborhood, and the driver told me how he used to live on my block, and how it used to be dangerous. “Is it better now?” I asked, knowing that many people are restful towards the gentrification. “Oh yes, no crime is always better than crime.”
After a rousing conversation with Charlie, the bartender, I began to walk home, the same route I’ve treaded hundreds of times since I moved to this apartment about a year ago. Not that I have gone to that bar hundreds of times, but it’s on the way to lots of stuff, and from it.
Anyway, I was about to turn onto my block when i noticed a man in front of me. He appeared to be in a daze, like he was tipsy or on drugs or something. But when he saw me, something in him kind of… changed courses. He perked up, slowed his step and turned his posture to address me when I walked past.
“Hey, do you have an extra cigarette?” he asked, smiling congenially.
“No, sorry,” I said and kept walking. There was nobody else on the street but the two of us.
“Has anybody ever told you how beautiful you are?” he called after me.
It’s lame when people use those kind of crap lines on women in the middle of the day, to impress their friends or something; it’s scary for it to be communicated in isolation in the middle of the night. “Yeah, they have,” I muttered, quickening my pace. After I’d gone about five steps I heard the man’s footsteps slow to a halt. A few more steps and I realized that he had actually turned around and was walking behind me, following me, going in the complete opposite direction from which he’d come. I felt my sympathetic nervous system activate as I turned onto my street.
I walked passed the corner bodega, and looked over my shoulder. Sure enough, the man had followed my onto my street and was moving faster.
I think this must the point where some people freak out. Or where women don’t freak out like they should and second guess themselves out of the instinctual distrust they feel towards certain individuals, and keep walking — and eventually running towards their apartment. Because they’re so close, almost there, even though they’re moving away from potential help. It’s the horror-movie scenario that was mocked in Scream: Why are women always running upstairs when they should be running out the front door?
Well, I’ve scoffed at enough dumb broads in horror movies to not let myself become one of them. My mind was racing, and with every step I took forward, I felt my options being eliminated. So I stopped walking. I turned around, looked the guy in the face, and started walking toward him.
“Are you following me?” I demanded to know.
“What’s your name?” He asked. He leered creepily at me.
“Because it really looks like you’re following me, and that’s not a good idea.”
I was completely talking our of my ass, of course. Probably. I’ve gone to one Kung Fu class and one Krav Maga class, and between the two I feel like I could’ve landed a solid punch if I needed to — I was ready to — but obviously I didn’t want to have any physical contact.
“I just wanted to know what your name is, so I could tell you how pretty you are,” he continued, stepping to the side to intercept my path. But he was too slow, and I darted past him.
“I’m not interested,” I said, making a go for the bodega. When I reached it, my momentum was met firmly by the resistance of the locked door.
“They’re closed,” he said, smiling turning and walking toward me again. “There’s nobody there.”
Neighborhood secret: The bodega is open 24 hours. And while the worker may lock the door at night, someone is still there to make sales through the bullet-proof window.
“Habeeb!” I yelled, banging on the glass. It’s a term of endearment in Arabic that my roommate and I refer to the bodega guy as. My roommate doesn’t know Arabic, she just heard me say it and started calling him that one day, like it was his name. It was funny and it stuck, and he’s come to know that it’s us behind the glass when we call through it to get beers at 4am or whatever. And tonight he knew it was me at the door, and he rushed around to open it.
As he fumbled to find the right key, I turned around and looked at my potential attacker, who was backing away, and I glared triumphantly at him. Not this time. And when Habeeb opened the bodega door, I collapsed inside, and he locked it behind us. Bodegas may not be stocked with tampons when I need them, but they sure do come in handy sometimes.
I stayed in there for about 10 minutes, called my roommate to see if she was home and tell her what happened. She was at her boyfriend’s, so Habeeb went outside first to make sure the guy was gone and stood on the corner and waited for me to walk down the street to my apartment.
I don’t know what would have happened if I had handled the situation differently. And I’m glad that I don’t have to know, to have to bear the memory of an attack for the rest of my life. But it could have been bad, I think. Generally, I try to think the best of people, but there are alot of fucked up individuals in the world, and for that reason I will never let my guard down. Not completely.
And I will definitely keep going to Krav Maga classes.