Saturday, January 17, 2009

a warm place to swear ...

i was walking alone in the skywalk late tonight. long after the displaced mall walkers had packed up their white reebox and AM/FM armbands. long after the mustard drool had dried on the tables at subway, like urine-splotches on the base of the toilet in a unisex gas station bathroom in pine city, minnesota.

there was a woman a few turns in front of me. 30 yards behind me, someone shuffling along playing an mp3 on his cell phone.

sometimes the skyway freaks me out. teenaged boys think of it as a warm place to hang out and swear. it's well lit, though. and you would think someone would have better sense than to stab you in a corridor that is 50 percent windows. usually i feel safe, or at least safe-ish. on the other hand, i've watched two movies this week starring random crimes. [in one of those movies jodie foster played a woman with a male fiance. i found that far less believable than her as a vigilante].

naturally, i start to brace myself to get shot in the back of the head, just like the kid in "boys n the hood." clenching my shoulders like i was standing under a spray of cold water.

if i were attacked by someone without a weapon who was approximately my height and weight with a similar amount of muscle mass, i believe i could put up a good fight. if the jacking deviates from those conditions, i'm screwed.

in the late 90s, there was a self help book that damn-near walked itself off the shelves of barnes & noble. i never read it. but i did stuff it into plenty of plastic bags decorated with a sketch of what a rotten potato would look like if it played mark twain in a movie. through some sort of osmosis, i learned to not discredit the fear instinct.

i turned around. it was a man. early 20s. bulky coat. face obscured.
so i sped up. then i slowed down, poker face like.
then i saw the skyway's maintenance worker: i guy who i imagine would throw this punk down on the floor, hold a mop at his neck and spit "not in my skyway."

i slowed down even more, all while making my legs look like they were moving faster. it's tricky, but do-able.
my would-be assailant caught up to me.

they say that in situations like this you should face your attacker. acknowledge him. humanize yourself.

"what are you listening to?" i asked him.
he told me it was music he'd made with his cousin.
i told him it was good.
he asked me what my name was.
i said jessica.
he told me why he was here in duluth and his hopes and dreams for his future.

then it started to feel like he was getting flirty, in that indiscriminate flirty way that some boys throw at anything that doesn't have a mustache.

i decided that i need to learn the fine line between humanizing and making friends.

but hey! i didn't get strangled, my blue and lifeless body tossed into a dumpster behind the holiday inn. so that's good.


Beret said...

I have that book and it's really good. You're supposed to stop where you are, turn around and look the would-be murderer/rapist/purse snatcher in the eyes so they know YOU know, you know?

Have you seen my dad in the skywalk? His office is in the First Bank Building (is it still called that?) and he looks kind of like Paul Simon with a mustache.

Talk With No Thought said...

I'm going to call that a win! Well played.

Amy said...

the book: the gift of fear
way to disarm your would-be attacker by humanizing him.
i'll walk the skyways with you if you'd like. i've got cabin fever BAAAAD.

Mach1 said...

"Long after the mustard drool had dried on the tables at subway, like urine-splotches on the base of the toilet in a unisex gas station bathroom in pine city, minnesota."

That, my friend, is sheer poetry.

Kristabella said...

Always trust your gut. Something similar to that happened to me in my laundry room. They guy was tinkering with a bike that cleary wasn't his and when he got up to approach me, I was all "what the fuck are you doing?" And he kind of backed off. I will never know if anything would have happened, but I like to think that confronting him helped.