Strange how quickly you can go from feeling so invincible one moment, to so vulnerable the next. Nothing awful ended up happening, thankfully, but I still feel like processing what happened tonight.
On my way home from dance practice, I decided to go get pizza in the Castro since I’d skipped dinner. I got my slice and sat down at one of the cramped window seats at Marcello’s, looking forward to a bit of space out time before going home to do more work.
A few minutes later a tall pale man asked if he could sit where my backpack was. I said sure and moved my bag. I went back to staring out the window at the Castro Theater for a few moments before he told me how cool my backpack was. I looked at him, said thanks, and turned back around. He started up again with some small talk, asking how my pizza was, and I answered because I didn’t want to be rude. He seemed to have taken that as a sign that I was enjoying this interaction so far, despite my tight lipped smiles and quick eye contact.
He kept talking at me, telling me about the French improv show he just went to see, how he hosts many couch surfers at his place…but then went on to tell me pretty personal things. Like how he didn’t fit in as a kid after his family moved from Paris to middle America, and then how he still didn’t understand how dating worked around here. This was all over the course of 10 minutes. I gave him curt responses while I continued to eat my pizza, and making a point of not shifting my body towards him. But as the conversation progressed, I felt the dread slowly well-up inside of me.
He is obviously trying to hit on me, but why am I getting such an eery vibe from him? He’s just trying to be friendly and make conversation right?
Then he asked me what I did for living, and (for some stupid reason because I am too fucking honest) I told him what I do. He replied, “Aaah, so you’re a smart cookie then?” and winked at me.
In that moment he managed to both insult me and utterly creep me out at the same time.
I told him I had to go work, folded the rest of the pizza, and shoved it into my mouth as I got my stuff together. When I realized that his body blocked my way from getting out of the corner, I stared him square in the face, fake smiled as hard I could, and said “Please, would you mind…?”
He moved out of the way and I squeezed passed as I wished him a good night. I unlocked my bike and started walking home. I thought that was that. But a few blocks away while I was trying to shake off the uneasiness, I saw him walk up behind me.
Whaaaaat the fuuuuuck is he doing here…?
I’ve been followed many times before, and over the years I’ve learned that talking to them in a normal tone of voice as if nothing is wrong is the fastest way to make *them* uneasy.
So I said “Hi!” as cheerfully as I could, “I’m assuming this way is home for you?”
He stammered for a second, then said “Umm, uh yeah. I’m walking up here to catch the 24 to Pac Heights.” He looked at his phone as if he were lost, even though he told me at Marcello’s that he’d lived in the same place for a while, and even though you can catch the 24 bus from the Castro.
He walked up next to me and fell silent. “You thought I was following you right? Ha ha!”
“No. I didn’t.”
“Well good…because I’m NOT,” he said with a creepy ass grin.
I choked on my spit and coughed. Silence. I felt like I had to say something so I said, “So…since you know what I do, what do you do?”
He gave me a long rambling response, about how he’s a web developer, started some hosting company back in the day, but is also selling what he called the “iPhones of pipes”—I wasn’t really paying attention at this point because this guy was following me home. I was busy imagining the worst case scenarios and what my plan of action was to lose him.
About two blocks away from my place I told him I was turning off from where he was headed. He asked me if I wanted to keep in touch and I told him I was just too busy. He suddenly looked a bit angry and walked off without a word. I crossed down the side road but looked over to him continuing down the street a few seconds later. He was staring at me from over his shoulder. I felt a cold shiver run down my spine.
I turned the corner from where he couldn’t see me and I sat on a neighbor’s front stoop for about 10 minutes, just to make sure he’d be gone. I walked back to the street he was on to get to my house, and I peeked around. He was gone.
Maybe this guy was being nice? Maybe he’s just an awkward guy who doesn’t know how to read social cues? I don’t know. But this person made me feel really threatened. It seemed possible to me that at any point he could’ve sexually violated me. As we walked, rape statistics kept flashing in my head. I even tried to comfort myself by remembering the fact that only 1/3 of rapes were by complete strangers…
Maybe he had no ill intentions, but that’s not the point. I’d tucked away my past experiences like these so I’d forgotten what it felt like to feel like sexual prey. I know it’s always there, and I know that many many women face situations that are much worse than this constantly. But I’m not capable of doing anything pragmatic about this issue, to try to change things in a meaningful way. I don’t have the energy to devote to that. I feel guilty that I’m not doing more to fight this particular widespread injustice but I don’t want that to be my role.
All I’ve decided to do is to write it down, and move on.