I think a large part of the reason I wasn't afraid to travel the world myself a few years ago was because I'd been living in urban areas where I'd have to rely on public transportation and my own two feet to get around.
- Walking the narrow and dusty streets of the densely populated Istanbul where street vendors are verbally aggressive about getting your attention? No problem.
- Landing in a third world country's chaotic city (Iquitos, Peru) where they rely heavily on tourists and won't think twice about trying to rip you off? No problem.
- Cities throughout Europe that also rely on tourism, and also will overprice everything unless you think to negotiate? Yeah... Really, no problem.
And it was living in NYC for four years and Boston for about seven years, where I developed my skills of getting around safely. Even when taking the subway home at 4am in my twenties from a club, and then walking the half mile to my apartment from the subway stop in a dodgy part of Williamsburg, circa 2000.
And all the skills of awareness kicked back in yesterday in the early afternoon as I was going about my errands on a crowded pre-marathon Boston weekend.
It was first at Whole Foods where I noticed a gentleman. Looked in his mid-twenties. Tall. Baseball hat. Sorts windbreaker jacket. He looked like a normal shopper. I'd turned around from grabbing something on an upper shelf and saw him staring at a shelf on the opposite side of the aisle. He looked over at me and we made eye contact. I nodded, acknowledging we were both in the space. Then I continued on.
It's a small Whole Foods - the one near Symphony. So our paths crossed again on another aisle. I didn't think anything of it. He seemed to be looking for something too.
But he had no grocery basket or anything in his hands.
That I noticed. But didn't think much of it.
I paid for my groceries, and scheduled them to be delivered later in the afternoon. I continued over to Boylston Street to hit the Trader Joes for something, knowing that the pre-marathon crowd would be super crazy over there.
But on the walk over, I decided to check on a really cool hidden sneaker store that I first when to 11 years ago when I lived here. It looks like a corner Boedga store...
When you go inside, it looks like a bodega too, with shelves stocked with things.
But in the corner is the Snapple machine. When you step in front of it, it slides over and reveals a hidden doorway and room. Inside the room is a clean space with all kinds of high end sneakers.
I noticed a client's brand of sneakers on an upper shelf and was checking them out. That's when I noticed the gentleman out of the corner of my eye.
"Hmm," I thought. "This guy is definitely fucking with me. I'm like 90% sure. And he is picking the wrong bitch to fuck with."
I smiled. And thought about texting the beard friend about it. But decided to hold off to see how it all panned out... For the creepy gentleman.
I left the sneaker store, and continued over to Trader Joes.
As expected, it was crowded. Inside and outside on the street. I was in search of my favorite coconut chips. It took a few turns around the smalls tore before I found them. And once again, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. He was looking at something on a shelf. I looked at him, straight-faced. Not in an intimidating way. More in a "I'm once again acknowledging you're in the same space as me. Not my space exclusively. But I am noticing you."
I paid for my stuff and left. I walked the crowd of Boylston.. Heading down to the marathon finish line and Copley Square. I took pictures to post to social media, and I didn't notice him. There were police everywhere in the crowd. I seemed to have lost him.
"Could have been a coincidence that he ended up at two other places with me," I was willing to admit. "But not fucking likely. I think I scared him away at TJs."
I started to walk home... And I hit the corner of two major cross streets in my neighborhood - though not my street. I turned around on the crowded corner, and I saw him about 10 feet from me.
"That fucker," I said to myself. "Game on, bitch."
I took off my sunglasses and stared at him as he stared off in space. I made him uncomfortable. He turned and started walking up the street, instead of crossing the street.
I crossed the street. And then stood on the opposite corner from where I had been. I just stared back at him. Sunglasses off. Not losing sight of him.
He pretended to look at a menu in the window of a restaurant. And then he looked back at me.
I took my two "peace sign" fingers and brought them to my eyes, then turned them at him.
"I'm watching you, you shithead."
He turned and kept walking up the street.
Now, I could have easily turned, and done a number of things at this point.
- I could have run in the opposite direction to get as far away from his energy as possible.
- I could have run back to the police in Copley Square and told them.
- I could have hopped in a cab, and had them drive me away so that there was no chance he oculd follow me.
But I wasn't done fucking with him.
Again, he picked the wrong bitch.
I watched him keep walking up the street, and I kept moving down the street, on the opposite side, as he moved. He would turn around every 10 feet or so to see if I was still watching him.
And every time he did, I made the, "I'm watching you" sign.
Eventually, he walked into the CVS on the corner.
I crossed the street, and stood outside the glass door. Staring in. Sunglasses off.
At first, I couldn't see him in through the door.
But eventually, he did walk around the corner of one of the nearby aisles inside. And there I was, staring.
"I'm watching you," I mouthed, looking in, making the sign again.
He turned around and walked back in the aisle.
I walked across the street, and stood on the opposite side again, for about five more minutes. I was waiting to see if he would come back out.
He did not.
I hailed a cab coming down the street, and had them take me a few blocks south of my apartment.
I got home just as my groceries were being delivered. I brought them inside, and texted the beard friend the breakdown of the whole thing.
"He was trying to see where you lived! That mother fucker was going to rape you!"
Leave it to your guy friends to put it so bluntly. Which I appreciated.
"Is it wrong that I wasn't scared?" I texted back. "That I had a surge of adrenaline once I was convinced he was following me? And that I wanted to fuck with him?"
And that's the truth.
I don't scare easy in situations that involve weapons or crazy people. But put a big ass spider, snail, clown, insect, or hard-boiled egg in my path? I will squeal at an octave higher than Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera can hit.
I debated about whether or not I would write about this experience. Especially since I hadn't gotten a picture of the guy. But I decided that it was worth writing about it, as a reminder that my "awareness" sense is still beautifully in tune. Even though I haven't used it much in the past two and a half years.
Thank you, Universe, for allowing me to flex my awareness muscle. And for the reminder that I can still "out crazy" the crazy.
After I finished the text conversation, I went back outside. I was going to get a cup of coffee. But then decided to call an Uber and head to West Elm to look at furniture for the Boston apartment.
Because... Why wouldn't I?
That's how a crazy bitch rolls.