Friday, February 14, 2003

last night, someone almost ruined my headstand induced high.

a guy followed me home from the tram.

to get to and from the gym, i catch a bus and a tram. during the day, it's a quick and easy journey, the buses and trams run practically all the time, between 5 and 10 minutes apart. late in the evening, such as after my yoga class thursday nights, it's a different story though: once my class is over, i have to hang around for half an hour before the bus arrives, and it takes another 25 minutes before i am home, including a few minute wait at a tram stop.

out of habit, when i am around alone in the evening, i make sure i carry my mobile. i make sure i don't look interesting, too, i cover up a lot. last night, i wore a big fat winter jacket, blunnies, two scarfes, a beanie that completely covered each and every blonde hair, no make-up.
nonetheless, sitting on the tram for my final five minute tram ride home, i noticed that two guys sitting opposite me, a few rows away, were staring at me. i instantly got shitty vibes from them but kept trying to read my book, telling myself not to get overly freaked about nothing and to keep enjoying my post yoga bliss.

when the tram stopped at my tram stop, i did the usual thing to avoid being followed (a tactic developed when i lived in a dangerous suburb): i waited until everyone had gotten out before i stood up and moved to the doors to leave the tram. i left the car as the last person.

my waiting on the tram tactic didn't work this time, though.

one of the blokes i had noticed earlier stood in my way as i stepped out of the tram, and asked me -first in french, then in english- whether i "had a minute".

nice person that i am, i thought that i should at least give him the benefit of a doubt and see whether he was asking about the time or the way or something else. i replied in english that no, i didn't, but could i be of help?
he asked me whether i had a minute, he and his friend would like to meet me, go somewhere for a drink, just for 10, 15 minutes or so.
i said no, that i was not interested, tired, and on my way home. and i started walking.
he walked next to me, telling me to stop, just for a minute, and i said again, that no, i wasn't interested. he kept repeating that he and his mate wanted to go for a drink somewhere, and i kept saying that no, i really wasn't interested, i was on my way home.
he begged me to give him just a minute. so i indeed stopped, told him he had his minute.

instead of telling me something i didn't already know, he gave the same stupid talk about me going somewhere with his mate again. i told him off again, that no i indeed wasn't interested, had said so before, and that i was going home, and yes, i was going home without him. i started walking again, briskly, and decidedly. and this asshole grabbed my arm to make me stop.

he. grabbed. my. arm.

not firmly, not so much it hurt, but nonetheless, he touched me. a fucking stranger fucking touched me to stop me from going where i was wanting to go.

i should have slapped him, but i was so paralysed by that bullshit i couldn't even react.

instead, i said even more nos (yes, my conversation was that limited) and walked (or tried to, when he wasn't staynding in my way) but a fucked up "stop and go thing" evolved over the next few metres. he repeatedly asked again and again and again whether i wouldn't want to go anywhere, and started asking for other stuff (where did i come from? was i really going home?) me repeatedly telling him (loudly at this point) no! and telling him I was being expected at home by my fiance. when i attempted to walk off, he kept standing in my way.

we had gotten to my street by then, and i started to feel panic rise inside my body, being extremely alarmed by the prospect of him finding out where i lived. where could i go now? what should i do?
i wondered whether i should threaten that i'd scream if he didn't let me go, but realised that would have been a ridiculous thing. i finally told myself if i didn't get rid off this bloke within the next seconds, i would walk into the cafe next door to my house (still bustling at 10pm on a thursday night) and call the police.

thing is, i felt threatened by him blocking my way and all, i felt scared he would follow me into my house, yet it didn't feel "life threatening" yet. i had the impression that that idiot felt it was all just a fucking rotten game.

the bloke stopped me in front of that cafe, and i don't know why my 51st or whatever no finally had an impact, or whether it was that i was walking, and doing so briskly, and with my head up high, that he said goodbye and left.
i walked home very briskly, turning around every few steps, worried he would find the other entrance to the backyard, but the guy was indeed walking away. once inside my house, i locked the downstairs door, which is usually never locked. i was freaked he'd be able to get in there and sit in front of my apartment door.

once i was inside my flat, and had locked my door a few times, i got angry. and that anger hasn't subsided, really.

had i done something wrong and sent that bloke wrong vibes that he felt he could just stand in my way and physically stop me from going my way?
should i have just pretended that i didn't understand him in the first place and ignore him when i was in the vulnerable moment of stepping out of the tram? did i send out "victim vibes"?
was something not clear about my communication?
why the hell did i keep giving him reasons why i was going home? why didn't i feel like my no was enough already?
lying about someone male waiting at home was good, but why did i feel the need to apologise for turning a bloke down who approached me at 10pm as i was getting out of a tram, after no flirty interaction whatsoever? was it his ethnicity that made me worry i was being racist if i didn't stop the first time he spoke to me and that sparked me to give him the minute he kept asking me for?
was i overreacting and maybe just misreading and misinterpreting a harmless flirt?

this strange -if, thankfully, harmless and ultimately non violent- encounter left me shaking and worried. why did this male think he had a right to touch me after the unbelievable number of nos that i had said clearly and loudly into his face?

i think my language couldn't have been more clear. however, i know it's an issue that i compulsively smile when interacting, which some people understand as "i say no but i mean yes" thing. i need to turn that off, immediately, when on my way in the evening.
i also need to carry my phone in a more accessible spot than the inside pocket of my jacket and i need to put the police hotline on speed dial.

but what should i do when and if someone approaches me in a similar fashion again? ignore them after a quick instant judgement based on ethnicity and gender?
that would be very unlike me, this sexism and racism. i doubt it would improve my safety in any way, too. and wouldn't it be even more interesting for a bloke like that to try to communicate with me? the nos i said, even if they weren't accepted, were at least clear communication.
but i worry. i am such a creature of habit, that it would be easy to find out for someone who was bad-meaning, what bus/tram i catch at what time, especially when there's little choice of transport left at night...

but what should i do?
i really don't know.