It was nighttime and I was walking back to the house of a friend of a friend who was kind enough to let me stay with her at such short notice. This wasn’t a ritual I looked forward to but it was a necessary initiation into my new neighborhood.
I had just moved back to Los Angeles from New York and this new job was killer. I needed to keep it and so I had to pummel anything that threatened to veer me off that mission.
So I did. I tackled my fear of the dark. I told myself that as long as I recited the Lord’s Prayer every morning before heading out — I would be fine. It worked for about a two weeks. I was able to get off the bus, cross the street and walk into the fondling arms of darkness that hung all around like a heavy jacket filled with wonder.
I pondered as always if I would make it to the house without any interference. My surroundings weren’t ideal and so there was the fear that perhaps my luck could run out and I would be faced with a haughty adversary who would remind me of all the reasons why walking alone in the dark is a bad idea.
That night came without warning. I got off the bus as usual but this time I had my headphones on. I was listening to Phil Collins belt out Take Me Home. I was feeling quite high. Nostalgic tendencies took hold as I happily skipped across the street and willingly allowed the darkness to engulf me. Once I began to trek along the familiar path ahead — I immediately detected that I wasn’t alone.
I turned around and there he was — a lone figure following my steps on command. Despite the cold chill spreading all through me — I remained calm. I convinced myself that there was no need to panic. He was probably heading home and just happened to be trailing behind me.
As I was getting comfortable with that notion — I noticed that he was walking beside me. What the fuck!? How did he get there so fast? I decided that I needed to switch Phil Collins off. Something told me he wasn’t going to Take Me Home anytime soon.
I kept walking and looking ahead as if I was oblivious of what was about to transpire. He kept up the pace — and I could smell the liquor unapologetically oozing from his pores. He began to speak and the words out of his mouth reeked of venom.
He wanted to know where I was headed. I quietly told him that I was trying to get to my man’s crib. He didn’t buy it and. He angrily told me that he was aware of my daily itinerary because he had been paying attention. I began to mentally unravel. So, this crazy fuck was a stalker?
The other words coming out of his mouth seemed to suggest that he was pissed that I lied to him because it meant that I was dissing him.
Fuck me. How do you reason with a drunken loser who is devouring your disposition in the dark? I started walking faster — hoping that I would outpace him — but no such luck.
That’s when I started to lose it. Jesus, is this guy going to rape me? Is he going to choke me to death? Or is he going to pull out a gun and shoot me. I wasn’t quite sure what his plans were but I did pay attention to his left hand that seemed to be digging for something in his pocket.
As if he could hear my mind racing though the possibilities — he came closer. Too close. I instinctively turned away but then he grabbed me from behind.
No! Please God. No. Don’t let this happen. You promised. I prayed this morning. Why?!
I got out of his grip and kept walking straight ahead. Why was there no one around? It was as if the rapture had commenced. I needed someone to come out of the house to retrieve an item from their car or maybe someone coming home from work — searching for a place to park. Anything!
No such luck. It was just me and my aggressor — shuffling in the darkness of the night. He caught me. This time his grip was more urgent and frightening. I shook myself free and ran.
I ran so fast that I couldn’t feel my feet. I could hear the wind sobbing in my ear and my heart pounding life in my veins. I felt alive and free as I sprinted forward. The tears pummeling my face were not of my design. Just a glitch of human effort.
I made it to the house in one piece. I only looked back when I reached the door.
Nothing and nobody was behind me.
The next day I bought pepper spray. But even without it — I feel victorious.
The night the darkness almost swallowed me whole shaped me forever. For better or worse.