January 8, 2008

For the first time in my life, I was scared.

Okay, not really, but for the first time in my life, I was afraid to walk home on my own.

Sure, I've walked home on my own from his house at night before; whenever he's sick or something comes up last minute, I walk home alone, and I have no problem doing so. All I do is borrow a pair of his jeans, throw on one of my oversized hoodies or sweatshirts, put up the hood, blast my iPod (usually something along the lines of heavy metal or hard rock so that anyone walking by me will be more inclined to leave me alone), and just walk, minding my own business. Lucky me; that usually works.

Until last night.

I walked home alone again last night for what was probably the second or third night this week because he was sick. He insisted (once again) that he would take me home, but I told him no. He could barely stand up for more than a minute to give me a hug and a kiss goodnight without getting dizzy and having to sit down, let alone walk or drive me home. So, as was protocol for the nights that I walked home, I threw my hooded sweatshirt, put up the hood, put on a pair of his jeans that he had given me, and zipped up my boots (I had worn them because it had been raining). Then I kissed him goodnight, told him to feel better, put on the headphones (which were blasting a Megadeth song) and walked out into the (slightly) rainy night.

As I passed Norwood Elementary School (the halfway point between our houses), I sped up, remembering my last encounter there at night. A few nights before, a car had driven slowly towards me along the street, and also heading my way was a man (lucky for me, my "disguise" seemed to have fooled him; he hurried by me looking nervous). As they both passed me, I inwardly took a deep sigh of relief. What if the driver and the man had been working together? If one or the other tried to grab me, I would have nowhere to run. With the car on one side and the man on the other, man, was I on Fate's merciful side that night. I could be cocky all I want about it, but I didn't want a second encounter last night. And for a few minutes, I thought I had gotten away with it again.

Boy, was I wrong.

I passed by the school, then passed a couple houses when I noticed a light slowly approaching from behind me along the street. I turned and saw an ominous looking car driving slowly by. Two, maybe three men were in it (I couldn't really tell; I know there was a driver and a passenger for sure, and it looked like there was someone in the back, but it was late and dark and it was hard to tell). The man on the passenger side rolled down his window and said something to me. I couldn't hear, so I took off my headphones and looked at him.

"Hey, do you know (insert name here)?" he asked. He had one of those Mexican "gangsta" accents, the ones that around here seem to mean you're a tough guy.

I looked at him curiously.

"(Insert same name here). You know him?" he repeated. The driver peered over at me from beside his friend.

"No," I said quickly.

"You sure?" he asked, his accent thick.

"Yes, I'm sure," I replied, half-annoyed.

"Hey, you stay around here?" he asked.

"And what if I do?" I said.

"Nah, I'm just askin'," he said. "'Cause, ya know we could give you a ride somewhere if you need it."

"Nah, I'm good," I replied, contemplating whether or not to put my headphones on again.

"You sure?" he asked. The driver said something that sounded like, "Yeah," but I couldn't be sure. "'We could give you a ride if you live around here," the man in the passenger seat said again. "It's dangerous out here. I'm just askin' if you know any of my homies or anythin'."

I looked at him. "Do I look like I know any of your homies?" I asked quietly. I don't think he heard me. "I don't need the ride. I'm good," I said finally.

"You sure?" the driver called out. He started to speed up again, and the man in the passenger seat stuck his head out the window and called out, "It's dangerous out here this late at night! We don't want you gettin' raped or nothin'!" I couldn't tell if he was joking or being serious. As he stuck his head back in, it sounded like he was laughing. Either that or the car really needs to get checked.

As soon as I saw them turn the corner, I whipped around behind me, afraid that someone may be sneaking up on me. No one there. I turned back around, put my headphones back on, and began to walk faster.

I didn't know what to think. I had never accepted rides from strangers because I didn't want to risk the stupid possibility of something happening for the worst, but at that moment in time, I wasn't sure that I should have denied the ride. So many things went through my mind within those following moments. What if they were rapists, cruising along to find some defenseless idiot to step into their car? Worse than that, what if they were rapists pretending to be fine, upstanding gentlemen in the community who just want to help out a poor girl walking around alone at night, while a secret unknown accomplice walked along the streets beside her and tried to "rape" her, only to get her into the car and have the men in said car snatch her away (wow that was an unnecessarily long sentence)? Or worse yet…

What if they really were trying to help, and they were my only chance of getting home safely?

And what scared me the most out of all these scenarios?

I knew that of something were to happen, he wouldn't be there to save me this time. Not like the last time. Last time, he was to meet me halfway to his house, and as I walked, someone began to follow me. When I couldn't shake him by walking faster, I ran, rounded the corner, kept running, and within a matter of moments, there he was (along with someone else), and I was safe once more. This time, I wouldn't be able to run as fast as I can and have him waiting around the corner.

This time, if something did happen, he wouldn't be there to protect me.

Lucky for me, I got home without running into anyone. I did, however, turn around and check behind me as often as I could without running into things or walking out into the middle of the street by accident.

I just could not shake the feeling that someone, or some thing, had been watching me, following me, the entire time.