“Did you work at the dollar store in Eugene?” a slightly crazed looking man with a Vietnam Veteran hat and ankle-tight dark blue sweatpants around the age of 28 asked me. I was in my car, holding a pack of granola and trying my best to assess the situation I currently found myself in. He was inches from my face and had his hands on his knees, staring in my eyes with a strange intensity. I stared back, letting him know I would gladly sock him between the eyes if he decided to try anything funny, which I already knew he was capable of.
I looked to the three men on the opposite site of the road, who were fixing a broken down mobile home and replied, “No.”
He accepted my answer and walked away. I watched him enter a red SUV that was parked on the intersecting road, in the middle of where traffic would normally have buzzed through.
I went back to my granola, breathing out a sigh of relief, only to be interrupted by hearing the door of the red SUV being kicked open. The man quickly hopped out of the vehicle and slammed something that shattered to the ground. As hard as he possibly could have.
Without hesitating, I stuck my keys in the ignition and drove away in one swoop. Off, off and away. Shaking just a bit. Trying to find my breath. Terri-fucking-fied. Going through everything that happened in my head once, twice, three times more. I had simply went to the park. To lay in the sun and be by myself in a field. That simple task had put me into some strange danger. Although I’m not sure why I was so surprised. This wasn’t an unlikely event. Attracting attention as a woman, even when you’re wearing sweatpants and have a wine stain on the front of your shirt, is a commonplace occurrence. Unwanted conversations? They’re had. Uncomfortable, crawl out of your skin cat calls? You’ve got it! Gross, loud-breathing men making advances at you? Walk down a city street alone and you can almost guarantee it.
But, I do admit. Writing about it has made me feel all that much better. Expelling the disgust and fear I felt due to someone who probably wasn’t mentally up to par anyways is needed. What a strange thing it is to exist.
During this day, I found out that the unshakable feeling I had for my safety while in Cartagena, Colombia this past winter was more than warranted. I, and the person I was traveling with, was almost certain I had went partially mad during this portion of our travels. And now, I find out, justifiably so. Staying at an Air BnB in a neighborhood where you have to reassure the taxi drivers multiple times that you are indeed going to the La Esperanza neighborhood [one of the most dangerous in Colombia] and then paying them extra to take you there is enough to tip off an uneasy vibe, but what I felt upon stepping foot into that area caused me to be overcome with a crippling anxiety I had little to no control over.
So, what I find out, via Facebook, is that the darling French Canadian girl who had hosted us was tied up, robbed for her “American dollars” and held at gun/knife-point prior to our visit. God. The feelings that washed over me upon reading her story. For one, I was endlessly thankful she had been spared, and during our visit we were granted a similar sort of safety. Secondly, a deep part of my being rejoiced. For the guilty feeling I had felt for acting in such a way and was punished for from my unbelieving comrade was lifted. It was real. I felt good. I felt really f*&^ing good.
I felt good for her – knowing how unbelievably freeing it is to write out a story that is trapped inside of you, trapped in the muscles of your body – keeping you stagnant in a sense. The truth sets you free like nothing else. The chains dissipate and it’s ready, set, go. I also felt good for myself – the reassurance, the proof that I had freaked out about staying in this area was not only warranted, but tangible, real. I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t the “hysteric” woman I was being made out to be, I simply knew what I couldn’t explain. And how lucky is that? To have a pretty much unfailing defense system built inside of your body. And while I choose to ignore it at times, it showed me that I need to be steadfast in my decisions, in my thoughts that tackle me with a truth I can’t deny.
I suppose what this all means is that there’s nothing like being a person who embraces their intuition. Those warm, fuzzy feelings? Love it. The pit of your stomach, hollowed out feeling? Act on it. Embracing an infliction of truth, instead of feeling guilty for having the feeling in the first place, will give you much more than trying to fight it. If you fight it, you’re fighting yourself. Things will start to crumble. They’ll crumble, fall and be blown away at that point, and fast.