I Hate Being Stalked By Men In Cars, So Maybe I Need To Move Back To New York
Yeah, no — there are no plans to move back to New York City — unless of course I win the lottery or fall for a wealthy Wall Street banker and of course none of those scenarios are going to manifest.
So — I’m stuck in one of many towns in Maryland that don’t resemble any of the cities I used to call home.
I spent years and years in The Big Apple and knew it inside out — which is usually what happens when you rely on the subway and your agile template as your mode of transportation. I started off in Jersey City — and then made my way to the Sunnyside and Jackson Heights neighborhoods of Queens before eventually landing in Washington Heights.
It was there that I really became well-versed in the pride of living in an area that was historic and over-flowing with cultural attributes. I developed a pure love for being able to freely explore without hindrance. I mean — sure — there were the instances when the unwanted attention escalated to “slightly annoying” — but the ceaseless distractions helped to alleviate the disturbance.
By the time I moved to the Upper East Side — I was definitely a “native New Yorker” with all the tools of that trade and the confidence directing every step — from the subway station to the dry cleaners to the eateries in Spanish Harlem and then back to my over-priced studio.
I could walk from East 96th Street to 86th in a flash — and after picking yet another iPhone charger — I would venture to 77th Street for further errands.
I used worked on 51st and Park — and one sunny afternoon — after clocking out early for the long holiday weekend — I was inspired to walk all the way home. I figured if I ever got tired — I could hop on the 4 or 5 train — get off at 86th — and then walk the remaining short blocks home.
But — I’m a walker.
These long ass legs were meant for walking with or without boots — and my mother used to boast about how once I mastered the art of putting one foot in front of the other without falling — I basically performed the act exhaustively — all around our modest home in Kansas City.
The long walk home from Park Avenue was just what I needed to avoid the clash of commuters trying to transfer to various ports — in the clogged up and over-heated underground facilitator. I marveled at the million dollar townhouses while yielding to messenger bikes and swarms of tourists.
I also enhanced my appreciation for a city that permitted the luxury of enforcing an enduring habit that also knocked off chunks of calories.
The best part of my daily exercise was the privacy of it — even when surrounded by imposing buildings and the soundtrack of activity that never evaporated — I still felt respected in the midst of all that chaos. Of course like most vast cities — the longer you spend outdoors — the more likely it is to succumb to the consequences — but I had trained my city to acknowledge the years of labor — invested in perfecting our relationship.
But that was then — and this is now.
Now — I’m re-learning how to retain my independence as a former commuter who enjoyed the option of heading wherever without endlessly plotting routes or fiddling with the Uber app.
I can’t continue to be expressive of my tendency to trek wherever because my life is at risk from the stalking of men in cars.
It started in Los Angeles and it surprisingly took me by surprise when guys would slow down their vehicles to comment about my physique or demand my personal information.
They rarely ask where you’re headed — it’s all about “getting to know you” and making sure that the car doesn’t outpace your carefully planned steps. This wouldn’t be nearly as terrifying if not for the fact that the Wild, Wild West tends to be a sprawling kingdom of nature that doesn’t host a lot of humans — who prefer to sprint down the never-ending blocks — under the guidance of the sun.
Cities that are immersed in car culture — feed that habit for a reason — and my reluctance to absorb the concept of “driving everywhere” began to take its toll — almost immediately.
The worst were the night invadors.
There was that time a car full of rowdy men — literally swerved off the main road — and landed right in front of me — with the headlights dousing my template — as I stood paralyzed with confusion and fear. That effort to engage was the last straw — as I quickly got out my phone and pretended to take a call while walking away and praying they wouldn’t follow.
I knew the adventurous era had to come to an end. It would have to be the bus — even if it was just the grocery store down the street.
The once fulfilling regimen from the city that made me — isn’t transferrable anywhere else — and it sucks to be unapologetically robbed of your habitual privileges.
And even as I adjust to the “new normal” in a less-imposing and not as impressive town — I’m still hassled by moving objects containing drivers who just want to take their time — driving by — in order to get the full effect of the strut back to my parents’ abode.
The one guy who yelled out something that I couldn’t make out — caught me on a particularly bad day — and after giving him the finger — I ran back to my protective space — pulled out my MacBook and began to type in sentences that could hopefully incite a future homecoming.
Is New York the only place where I can be insulated by more bodies than cars?
The answer is — yes. And while the catcalling is just as aggressive and invasive — there was always the line that was never crossed in my almost twenty years as a dweller.
Maybe the point is that I just don’t belong anywhere.
In the meantime — the highway is about to welcome a new set of wheels. And for you and I — that’s a frightening prospect.