Safety is such a subjective matter. Everyone has their own interpretation of safety. For me, autonomy has always been at the center of my core. Personal safety, however, has not been something I’ve had to define for myself, even as a woman. Before this incident, I was certainly in the minority, as I never really questioned my safety. I had always adhered to practical rules for traveling solo. That and I have a very muscular 55 lb border collie mix who has no problem voicing her dislike for people. Even as a pup, she challenged a 120 lb pit mix when it came running down the street to attack us on a nighttime stroll. At 36 lbs during this event, she held her own, only sustaining a surface wound on her backside. I was more traumatized than she. But anyway, I’m off topic.
I woke up, like any other day, and Abbey and I went for a decent-sized walk. I felt like I owed it to her for the other day. On that walk, I called my dad. We chatted for a bit and caught up. He was in Maryland for the funeral of his great uncle. There, he was re-introduced to family members he hadn’t been in contact with since his childhood. I remember hearing his disbelief and awe about family problems that sent a rift between his grandfather and great uncle. He had enjoyed catching up with cousins and the like and lamented about how much time had passed for this to occur. That moment stuck with me as I realized how important it was to let things go and not to harbor grudges.
Anyway, I had told him about the second conversation I had with Brett and how it was not my cup of tea. I then thanked him for being such a great male role model for me and demonstrating healthy boundaries. One of the things I had come to ascertain from my experience with Brett was how easy it is for an unassuming woman to fall prey to his creepy advances. Fortunately for me, I was not interested or charmed by his behavior and I made sure my actions and words matched that sentiment. Still, the observationalist in me could see the parallels of overbearing behavior being misconstrued as loving or amorous.
Society does not help in matters such as these. Older men are often regarded as wise, smarter than the average idiot 20-something male, and the age stigma has certainly decreased over time. That and I’ve observed women in their 20s abandon their sense of self when receiving the attention of a seemingly well-established older male. Fortunately for me, my bullshit detector is in full form, so Brett’s charming facade had more cracks than a broken mirror.
Again, I can’t take full credit as my relationship with my father really informs my relationships with members of the opposite sex. I’m fortunate in the sense that I can talk to my dad about anything and we have a very candid friendly relationship. As I’ve grown older, it’s only improved. So after an hour-long chat, Abbey was happy with the prolonged outdoor adventure, so she and I retreated back into the condo.
I always feel like…
Maybe it’s the writer in me, or maybe it’s because I enjoy being alone, I am very good about observing my surroundings– even if I don’t heed my internal warnings. Back in the condo, I sink into this retro leather recliner, which is positioned by the window and balcony door. I should mention that the condo is a studio, so I was sitting by the only window. Since we are right by one of the exits, I keep the blinds partially open so that people on the outside can’t see us. That and it provides enough cover for me to creep on passerby’s undetected. For the first time in 28 days, I saw a shadowy figure outside the window that was seemingly not going away.
…somebody’s watching me
Intrigued, I was curious and annoyed by the person lurking by my window. I had grown accustomed to people walking by on weekends, but this was different, as the person was there for a few minutes. I cautiously proceed to the window, careful not to give away my position as I peeked through the blinds. To my dismay and creeped out vibes, it was Brett, standing there with his phone. A few seconds later, my phone beeps He was texting me while trying to nonchalantly peer through my window. At this point, chills were going down my spine as I open the message. Why the fuck was he by my window?
“Hey, how are you doing? You seemed a little off last night. Wanna hang out?” was the message on my phone. Again, I had just met this dude, and I’m 100% sure, I kept my cool when leaving. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being a chameleon, so his constant comments were absurd.
“Sorry if I was obnoxious,” again adhering to the stupid social contract. “I can’t. I’m packing to leave. I will let you know if things change.”
“It’s fine, I videotaped you and put it on YouTube,” was his response.
My heart sank to my feet as I was utterly thrown and disturbed by the comment. Who the fuck says that and in what world did he think that was ok? He was still by my window and at that moment, I felt stuck in the condo. Ignoring the text, I decided to ignore the situation. This dude can’t bother me unless I engage. Still, I had no desire to leave the tiny studio because he was lurking about. I remember feeling a sense of dread and frustration.
I hate when people intrude on my space, especially when it’s unwelcomed. That and there was literally no reason for him to be on my side of the condo. The rest of the day proceeded with him, sending more texts asking to hang out and apologizing for the YouTube comment. So clearly he recognized how inappropriate that text was. I ignored them all. The fact that he kept texting even though I had explicitly said I would let him know really pissed me off.
If this were a normal situation, I would have called him out and told him to fuck off. But seeing as the complex was nearly vacant and the only other people I knew were away, I just didn’t want to risk it. At this point, it was clear something was off with the dude, and I didn’t have any real recourse should he go off the deep end. For the first time in my 29 years of existence, I realized that my safety was compromised and it was a disturbing feeling.
Come Sunday morning, I basically barricaded myself in the condo. I didn’t want to run into him, even for a second. I was so paranoid that instead of taking Abbey out to pee using our normal route, I used the entrance a few feet from the condo. This required me to pick her up, carry her over the grated flooring (she refused to walk it, and I can’t blame her, it would’ve shredded her paw pads), let her do her business, and then carry her back over the floor. Neither of us enjoyed this process, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
Around 1 pm, I was fed up feeling like a prisoner and I really needed to get some work done. I made the decision to drive down the mountain to go to Starbucks. My car was located in the downstairs garage. It was literally a 45-second walk, there’s no way I’d run into Brett. Still, I had this sinking feeling that I could not shake. I made the decision to ignore my apprehension, weighing the odds to go through with it. There’s no way I’d let some creepy asshole deter me from going on about my day. I said a quick goodbye to Abbey and then tiptoed down the hallway. As I opened the door to the stairwell, before I could get a look at the figure before me, a pair of arms pulled me into an embrace. It was Brett.
There are no words in the English dictionary to describe how it feels when someone– who is bigger and stronger– puts their body on yours when you don’t want them to. I hate being touched without permission. I especially hate it when it’s a person that I had been actively trying to avoid. My first instinct was to pull away. As I began to squirm, he hugged me tighter and harder, stifling my attempts to free myself. I could not get out. Until that moment, I had never felt so physically powerless in my life. This was not a friendly hug, and I knew exactly what he was trying to convey– control and dominance. He succeeded, as I went limp, understanding that I didn’t have the strength to fight him off. I just stood there, waiting for him to be done.
“Hi!!” He screeched, finally letting me go.
“I don’t like hugs,” I mumble not making eye contact, pushing past him to head to my car. I was spooked and wanted to get away. He clearly did not get the hint as he followed me to my car.
“Where are you going?” he asked
“Coffee shop,” I muttered.
“Do you need a printer? I have one. You can come up,” he said as he walked me to my car. “Is this your car?”
Shit, I thought. Now this fucker knows my vehicle and basically every important detail about my whereabouts.
“I’m fine, thanks,” I mutter, trying to get into my car.
“You seem standoffish as opposed to the other night,” he mentions. “Don’t forget to stop by and say goodbye before you leave. You have to promise me you’ll stop by. I’ll find you if you don’t.”
At this point, I was flabbergasted. Keep in mind, this is Sunday afternoon. I met this dude Friday late morning and had only 2 conversations. For him to be so pushy was insane to me. That and I was still trying to deal with the ambush that just happened. What stood out to me the most was his word choice. Even though he tried to appear “friendly”, everything was a command, order, or a threat.
“Yeah, I’ll stop by,” I say in a frustrated tone. “I need to go.”
“Ok, no need to be pushy,” he fake-jokingly retorted with his hands in the air as if I was overreacting.
At this point, I didn’t care about how he perceived my behavior. I got into my car and went down the mountain. I decided to shove the encounter to the back of my mind. I had work to do and still needed to finish cleaning and packing. Still, I couldn’t help but think about his comments about saying goodbye. I decided that I would stop by, but on my terms and I would have the control.
To be continued…