so that happened · Uncategorized

Stranger Danger

cobblestones-1

One day, a few years ago, I hopped on a bus that would take me back to the apartment I was living in at the time. I had just come from the shop, and I was listening to music, shouldering a backpack and carrying a fairly heavy bag full of groceries in each hand. I sat myself down on the bus with a sigh of relief, and gazed out the window at the pretty town I then called home.

A man sat down beside me at the next stop. Out of my peripheral vision I noticed his black tracksuit bottoms with the trademark three white stripes. I saw the tattoo that ran along his forearm and wound around his wrist to his index finger. I looked straight ahead, lost in thought, and absent-mindedly watched as an elderly man sitting three rows away sniffled and dragged a dirty tissue from his sleeve. I was distantly aware of two middle-aged women chattering beside him. Every so often they would lean in towards each other, wide-eyed, as if a juicy secret had just been shared.

I idly tapped my fingers on my knee and lost myself in my own thoughts as the bus rattled along the cobblestones.

Twenty minutes later, as the bus reached my stop, I swung my backpack up over my arm. I scooped up my bags of groceries and stepped off the bus, my shoulders aching. I hummed along to the music coming through my earphones as I walked towards my street. I lived on the ground floor of an old house that sat, rather unassumingly, on a tiny cobbled alleyway. A single streetlight shone from the main road.

I was almost at the streetlight when the hair on the back of my neck prickled, and I paused. I looked over my left shoulder. The street behind me was deserted. I shrugged to myself and continued on. When I reached my alleyway, I felt it again; a gentle, nagging feeling that somebody was right behind me. I looked over my right shoulder into the twilight.

There was nobody there.

Feeling like an idiot, I finally reached the stoop of my front door. I put down my groceries, and swung the bag off my back to look for my keys. After a few minutes of fumbling – because apparently I can never keep my keys in one place – I finally found them in an inside pocket. Pulling them out with a triumphant flourish, I hung my bags off my left arm and slid my key into the lock. I turned the key, pushed the door open, turned to yank the key out of the door…

…And came face to face with an entirely unfamiliar man.

In what was literally a split second, these are the thoughts that my brain, now jostled awake by this unexpected stranger, compiled and indexed for me:

  1. Strange man in my face.
  2. Strange man in my face has his foot on my doorstep.
  3. Strange man in my face is about a foot taller than me.
  4. Strange man in my face could reach out and shove us both inside.
  5. My housemate is not home.
  6. Nobody is home.
  7. W.T.F.
  8. Strange man in my face is wearing black Adidas tracksuit bottoms.
  9. Strange man in my face has unusual forearm tattoo.
  10. STRANGE MAN IN MY FACE WAS ON THE BUS WITH ME!
  11. BUS MAN IN MY FACE!
  12. BUS MAN FOLLOWED ME FROM THE BUS TO MY FRONT DOOR!
  13. W.T.A.F!

At that point, just as our eyes met, Bus Man looked entirely unprepared. His face registered shock, and frankly, I found that incredibly rude. After all, I wasn’t the one who had stealthily followed someone to their front door.* If anybody had the right to look shocked, it was me.

If you were to have this moment on tape, and you chose to freeze-frame this particular second, we would probably look like mirror-images of each other. Me, one foot inside the house, staring blankly at this random human who was so close I could reach out and touch him with my tiny arms. Him, staring blankly at me with his foot on my front step and his tattooed hand on his thigh. Both of us momentarily frozen in motion.

And then the split second passed.

In one smooth motion fuelled by 90% absolute panic and 10% adrenaline, I pulled the key out of the lock and swivelled into the hallway, slamming the door shut with a ninja kick that ricocheted through the house.

Then I dropped my bags to the floor, retreated all the way down the hallway to the far wall, and slumped against it. I stared at the front door for about half an hour.**

Then I got up and dragged my plastic bags full of food to the kitchen.

 

*To be clear, the only way I could have not seen him, having looked over both shoulders, is if he was moving purposely out of my field of vision each time. That street was very narrow.

**He disappeared and never came back, but I hated that he knew where I lived and always wondered what was going through his head that day. Maybe his motives were friendly, but if so, let this be a lesson to anybody who thinks it’s sweet to follow a girl home: NO. NO. DON’T DO IT. WE DON’T LIKE IT. IT’S TERRIFYING. He could have struck up a conversation on the bus, or on the street, or even while I was mindlessly searching for my keys, and he did none of those things. Instead he appeared inches from my face when my front door was already open. I am just over five feet tall. Anyone looming over me unexpectedly is unwelcome. This is particularly true of strange men that I don’t know.

Also, please believe me when I say that any situation that might make a girl feel like a cornered animal – unless it’s some form of kinky roleplay by mutual consent with safewords – is never romantic. It’s unlikely to be a story you will one day tell your grandkids as you hold hands and gaze fondly at each other across the table. It’s much more likely to be a story that ends up on a blog.

Like this one.

 

0 thoughts on “Stranger Danger

  1. I went home for lunch a few weeks back and just before I was leaving, my dog noticed a car outside a few houses down and started barking. I go outside and notice the car still in the same spot, but it started rolling my direction. I got in my car, turned it on and just before I put it in reverse, I look in my mirror and noticed the guy had stopped his car right behind mine, so I couldn’t move any where, and he was looking at me. I started panicking, locked my doors and grabbed my cell phone. I acted like I was calling someone by putting the phone to my ear and he drove away. I was able to get out of my parking spot and ended up behind him at the stop sign waiting to turn. He ended up staying at the stop sign a lot longer than he needed to, preventing me from going anywhere, until he just drove off. I got back to work and had a panic attack in my office.

    You never see/read about women doing this kind of crap. Just sayin…

    1. Considering your past experiences I would find it even more frightening. I think sometimes it honestly doesn’t even cross their minds that they’re being intimidating. And people make so many excuses for them! No. Come on. Be normal! Act like a semi-respectful human being please. Nobody wants you rolling up to their front door without an explicit invite.

      1. I’m all for giving people the benefit of a doubt (it’s a flaw really…), but personal space is personal space. The guy is lucky I didn’t have my revolver handy. He thought me making a phone call was scary… he didn’t know he was taunting a pistol-whipping lass that takes no shit!
        What are Ireland’s laws on self-defense? I know the US has what the rest of the world views as absurd laws in regards to guns, but what about tasers and pepper spray?

        1. Yeah no. No tasers. No pepper spray. No guns or knives. We’re a very peaceful island.

          Having said that, this story above happened when I was living in Germany. Not sure what the rules are like there.

          1. Just to be clear: not all Americans have guns, especially American women. My dad has collected guns for as long as I can remember, and he taught me how to shoot and care for a gun since I was little. It was just a few months back that I got my first one (a present from my dad that belonged to my granddad). I have a taser that I would keep in my backpack when I was in college. I only had to threaten someone with it once, thank God. I’ve gone through 2 pepper sprays, but only because they were expired.

            Again. Not everyone is like me, but not everyone has experienced what I have.

            It must be nice not having to worry about such dangers (to an extent, of course).

          2. I’ve learned to shoot but only aiming at tin cans with a pistol in Spain, or clay pigeons with a shotgun in Ireland. The laws are very strict here.

            I would definitely say I feel a lot safer here, mostly because confrontations here don’t have that same threat of sudden, fatal escalation. In America I’m always afraid the crazies I meet have guns. Here the crazies are just… crazy.

            Having said that, it’s still unpleasant. And for sure knowing anyone could be carrying would make you want to carry yourself. No doubt.

  2. What a terrifying experience. I’m glad you managed to get in your place, but as I was reading it I was certainly thinking, but he knows where you live. So I’m glad nothing ever came of that. My wife has had a few scary encounters in public transportation before. Nothing physical thankfully, but very menacing stares and she has been followed a few times but managed to shake him, or at least get to a place where no one could try anything. I’m not physically big, but a few times I’ve kind of gotten in the way of someone acting a little off deliberately, to ‘protect’ strangers. Nothing verbal, or physical, could even be stepping in front of them just to block their field of view.

    On a side note, I really enjoy your writing Quinn. The way you wrote this not very pleasant story, was really quite good.

    1. Thanks Robert! I think being a pretty small person makes me inclined to see people as far more threatening than they probably see themselves. He never did reappear but I was still glad to move away a couple of months later!

      1. I have to caution my wife sometimes from not letting situations potentially escalate because I’m the one whose ass will get kicked! But I’m certainly glad he did not reappear, and that you moved!

  3. That is absolutely horrifying. I didn’t even make it through the 13 points on your Thought Index the first time I read this post because I had to scroll down to a lower paragraph and make sure that the Adidas Asshole didn’t hurt you. Tacky AND creepy, what a winning combination. I’m so sorry you had to go through that and then, I’m sure, the days of residual “He knows where I live” terror.

    1. Weirdly, apart from doing full 360° spins every time I went to walk down my street from then on and never taking the bus again, I sort of shook it off. The guys I hung out with at the time told me he ‘probably just wanted to ask you out’ which may have been true but just made me feel like they didn’t understand why it would be frightening and thought I was being overly dramatic. Also, OF ALL THE WAYS TO DO IT! Why would you ever go with the max-creep-factor one??

      I think what some guys miss is that if their actions are weird as f*ck then their good intentions don’t make that much of a difference, to be honest.

      1. Exactly! My male friends say that as well and somehow, I don’t think the flattering effect of realizing a guy finds a woman cute and wanted to take her out for drinks negates the totally inappropriate way said guy asked said woman to said drinks.

        Once, while walking to my Muni at 6am in the freakin’ morning on a completely empty, dark street, I had a man grab my shoulder (the one my purse was on) and forcibly swing me around to face him so he could ask me out. I lost my shit on him and every single one of my guy friends said that I was in the wrong for yelling at him. He just wanted to ask me out! Oh what an asshole I am.

  4. Dude. Why are people so creepy? I remember once when one of my best friends and I worked together, I had her help a guy and like a week later he found her on Facebook and started messaging her and then ended up getting her phone number from her page and texting her. Its been a over a year since she’s responded but he still texts about once a month to see if she’ll go out with him. He goes between “Whatever you’re a bitch” and “I’m going to keep bugging you until you respond.” It’s scary. I don’t get why some people feel so entitled to our time.

  5. That sounds utterly creepy. I once met a woman on the train who I wanted to meet. I didn’t have the courage to talk to her cold (and certainly wouldn’t follow her), so I wrote a note one day and passed it to her as I exited. That’s as far as I would go.

      1. Yes, she called me one night when I was out with my friends. It was perfect timing, as my buddy was ridiculing me for doing it and saying she would never call. Then, my phone rings! lol We dated only a few times and I’m glad that I reached out to her. I think that I would have wondered for a long time if I hadn’t tried.

  6. Well that’s a bloody terrifying story! From a male point of view, whilst I appreciate it’s difficult to make an approach in public for some guys, I’ve yet to find the need to do a metaphorical coin toss between “strike up conversation” and “follow girl home, avoid her field of view, doorstop her, and try not to look too rapey”. I know, it’s a tough call, yet “strike up conversation” always seems to win…

    1. Definitely (in my opinion at least) an awkward conversation on the bus would have been infinitely preferable to being stalked like prey. But that’s just personal preference!

    1. The larger part of me wants to believe he was just an idiot who didn’t think his approach through, but I’m just over 5ft so I’m not able for intimidatingly large men with strange tattoos unexpectedly accosting me on my doorstep, whatever their reasons!

  7. Man I feel like I just read a scene from a horror film. Did he say anything to you? I just picture him standing there at your door and staring daggers through you. I’m sorry guys are creepy.

    1. No he didn’t say a single word! I have no idea what was running through his head. I like to think that when the door slammed in his face so swiftly he had a Come To Jesus moment and realised he should maybe make better choices.

  8. Good lord this is absolutely terrifying. It’s stories like this when I remember that I should be carrying mace with me everywhere. I had something weird like this happen too. I was out walking at night on my college campus and noticed I passed the same guy about 3 times, and then I saw out of the corner of my eye he quickly turned around and walked closely behind me, with his hood covering his face. Let’s just say, I booked it across the parking lot to my dorm room and didn’t look back.

      1. Oh my gosh, I feel like I have more stories like that for sure. And I’m certain every single one of my friends do too. It’s unavoidable.

        1. I have more than one terrifying story, too unfortunately. It is sad that Jess’s statement “It’s unavoidable.”, is still true for women all over the world. Are we making progress in changing some men’s attitudes to women? Slowly, slowly but what a battle it is. 😓

  9. In college, I lived downtown where everything was very close by. One night I decided to go out and walk to get dinner. On my way, I heard someone shouting “Hey, Hey mama” But I ignored it. On my way back I heard it again. Turns out this guy had been following me in his car and waited until I had gotten eaten and started following me home. Thank goodness like I said I lived downtown of a large town so there were people everywhere. But the scariest part was when I went to cross the street, he turned with me and stopped his car to get out. This is the part where I turned to run into my apartment complex and proceeded to hyperventilate because none of my roommates were home. Hands down, scariest experience of my life. I have no idea of his intentions either, but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
    In hindsight, I should have ran to the fire station that was less than two minutes away instead of running to my apartment, but in the moment you don’t really think of the best decision, just the quickest.

    1. Yeah it’s alarming how many guys out there think this is a totally legitimate form of getting a girl’s attention. I’ve never heard of a How Did You Meet? story that started with “So I saw her across the way and decided to dabble in a bit of casual stalking……”

      I mean, what did that guy think he would achieve by chasing you out of his car?? These people need to take a long, hard look at their courting skills.

      1. I’ve always been one of those people who think of the worst possible scenario, so in my mind he wanted to kidnap me and sell me into sex trafficking. (I watch a lot of Law and Order:SVU.) And I know this means absolutely nothing but I was wearing some frumpy looking clothes and tennis shoes. I just didn’t understand it.

        1. Hahaha YES! When that guy followed me off the bus I had my hair in a ponytail, zero make-up, glasses on and Adidas trackies. I remember saying the exact same thing to people who would say ‘He was probably trying to chat you up.’ Like, really? I was looking like a messy slob!

          I hope he wasn’t trying to sell you into sex trafficking. That would be awful. I choose to believe he was just incredibly socially-inept. I sleep better thinking there are a bunch of socially-inept hopeless lonely souls out there rather than a bunch of sex-trafficking maniacs!

  10. It is very good that nothing came of this, other than that shock, and that nothing could come from it now that you’ve moved (right?).

    Someone as stunning as you are Quinn should always try to stay alert of your surroundings when alone. I don’t say that to raise unwarranted paranoia, but say it for pure safety if that makes sense. Be safe without sacrificing the joy of living! <3 🙂

      1. Great news! And when you can walk with a friend (or two), that’s always best as well. “Strength in numbers!” Right?

        And to encourage your courage, one of my favorite quotes for you…

        Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”… [or mad as hell!!!]

        😛

  11. Wow, that would have been scary for anyone, people just randomly appearing and in your personal space is never good, let alone in a small, quiet deserted area.

  12. Firstly glad that you are safe and nothing bad happened! Also, read some your work, really love your writing. I know you narrate your experiences, but the way you do it is so cinematic! One can actually visualise the entire story frame by frame.
    Really amazing.

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