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One of the things Olivia and I did whenever it was nice out during the day was go on walks. We’re lucky that we live by so many parks, three within walking distance, and two of those only a block away. One of the parks, the prettiest and most serene, has a trail that disappears into the woods after the playground.
On an afternoon in October, I had Olivia in the stroller and we had just turned off the main road into the park where the trail joined the street. I did a quick scan of the empty playground and didn’t see anyone.
I was walking alongside the park when I saw him.
He was sitting under the little pavilion between the woods and the playground. A nicely dressed man, maybe mid-forties. He had dark features, probably Middle-Eastern descent. He was looking at his phone, sitting down at the picnic table.
I was watching him out of the corner of my eye (luckily I had sunglasses on), suddenly wondering if I should keep going.
Then he looked at me. He watched me the entire time I walked past him. And then he stood up, glanced out toward the road-
-and stepped toward me.
I looked ahead and saw my normally serene walking trail into the woods quite differently at that point. I saw a secluded place, dark and even a little scary.
I didn’t care how I looked. I stopped at the trash can, pretended to throw something away, turned the stroller around and started walking out to the road.
And he changed direction and turned around with me, walking alongside me, about 100 feet between us, him looking down at his phone while he walked and me staring straight ahead.
I turned the corner with the stroller, onto the sidewalk leading away from where I lived. As I walked down the sidewalk, I looked at my screen on my phone, at the reflection behind me. He had turned the same corner.
I reached the intersecting road, which was a little more populated and turned left, bringing myself further from home.
If he still is behind me when I reach the busy road (about quarter mile stretch) I’m calling the police.
Halfway down the road, he turned off into another walking path.
Was I a complete nut job? Maybe.
It was quite possible that he was simply hanging out at a playground, maybe on a lunch break, and happened to notice the time: I better get home and get back to the grind. Maybe my appearance was entirely coincidental.
But that’s not what my gut was telling me.
And to be honest (you know, since I was clearly out of any danger, real or imagined) it made me mad. Because if I was a man, I would have plowed down that trail without a second thought.
But I am a woman. With a baby. And that’s such an eye roll, but it’s reality.
I know I’m a very cautious person. My heart beats a little faster when I’m alone walking past a group of men. I don’t allow strangers into my house (for repairs, deliveries, etc.) without Chris being there. And when I see a man alone in a park at the entrance to a secluded trail, I will turn around and walk right out.
Is it entirely unfair? Yes.
I’ve since been down the path again with Olivia, always checking the area and I haven’t had any more issues. Luckily.
Are you like me? Are you the crazy awkward one turning tail from a perceived danger, or does it not bother you?
You can find more of this week’s #MicroblogMondays posts by clicking here.