As I rounded a corner, I heard a truck roll up behind me. It was a slow roll, the tires crunching the unpaved road, and instead of feeling secure that someone was actually driving cautiously, my stomach knotted. I looked over my shoulder and met the eyes of a man. He was staring at me. I held his stare for a moment, torn between looking away so as not to challenge him, and glaring back to show no fear. Ultimately, I smirked and marched on, keeping an eye on him in my peripheral. With my phone in my hand, I readied the call to 9-1-1. Every bone in my body told me to walk faster, position myself in front of someone’s house, and call the police, regardless of whether the man intended to harm me or not.
But he drove on, slowly. And I walked on, faster.
As I approached the next block’s intersection, a white truck drove past. Slow. Again. A face looked down the road at me. My heart sped up. “We’re OK,” I whispered to myself, but Intuition told me this was not a good situation. To call the police anyway.
And tell them what? That a man looked at me? That MAYBE he just drove past and looked at me again? But that I couldn’t be sure it was the same white truck and the same face?
Suddenly, there was a white truck in every driveway. Every other vehicle that passed me was white. Every face seemed to be looking at me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that while I wasn’t wrong, I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to identify this man, this truck. All I had was an icky feeling.
I continued walking, sure he was stalking me at this point. A white truck seemed to make wide circles around the blocks I marched down, and yet it always stayed far enough away that I couldn’t be sure. And still, more white trucks drove by. It seemed everyone now owned a white truck, and so now everyone was a suspect that I feared.
Close to home, I stood in the park near a family that was chasing each other and playing. My heart raced as I waited for the truck to drive by, to look at me again, to find solid ground in my fear. With just a block and a half to go to get home, I feared him seeing where I live, watching me going into my house. I walked home quickly, inspecting every driveway, every truck, every face. And as I made it home without seeing him, I found myself shaking and deeply afraid. I watched out my windows for a white truck, and again, more and more white trucks seemed to appear in the neighborhood. That night, I jumped at every noise. I was safe, but the fear was holding me hostage.
The next day, I couldn’t make myself go out and walk. I could not convince myself that I was wrong. I feared he was waiting for me around the corner, and I wouldn’t know it was him until it was too late since a hundred different white trucks seemed to be within a 6-block radius of my home. I put on my walking shoes, but it was pointless. My fear was too great. I was paralyzed and helpless, and the very thought of walking made my hands shake.
Here’s the thing: I don’t know if this was a silly little thing. I don’t know if I just caught a man leering who then went on about his creepy day. I don’t know if my fear was based on real intuition or experiences from my past. There are times when I’m walking when it feels like every man I see could be the enemy, lying in wait for me to let my guard down. I do know my past has left me with fears that I can’t always shrug off. I am hyper-aware of the dangers in this world, and I often walk a very thin line between healthy caution and paranoid fear. On this day, I was afraid to leave my house. I was afraid of becoming a victim all over again. I believed my intuition about that man in the white truck was correct, and yet I didn’t know what to do about it. So I stayed inside my home where I felt relatively safe.
[Tweet “I often walk a very thin line between healthy caution and paranoid fear.”]
I long for a world where we don’t fear each other, where a woman can go for a walk in her populated neighborhood and feel safe, where children don’t fear their parents and wives don’t cower from their husbands. But the reality we live in requires vigilience. And it requires not allowing fear to keep us quiet or from living life. So, with a bit more awareness, I go out and I walk again. I am stronger than fear.