I felt safe in my neighborhood. Of course I did – it’s why we moved there. We had children who wanted to ride bikes on the sidewalks, we had a dog to walk at night and I had my run that freed my mind every morning. That run was my lifeline. I thought I would fall apart without it. I thought that running was saving my life.
I came to know the others on my route. A short wave to one, a nod to another, a smile for the grandmother with her pink visor. I didn’t know their names, or where they lived, but they represented a safety net – I counted on them.
But not him. He was familiar, but never safe.
He appeared at various places along my route until he found the spot where others weren’t. And then he was there, same place at the same time… every time. He stayed to one side of the street, I stayed to the other. I thought, stay there. I admonished myself for judging. I waved. He never waved back, never turned his head. I told myself he hadn’t seen me.
But he did. I was the reason he was in this spot, at this time.
The day was overcast. The streets were quiet. I looked for the grandmother. She wasn’t out. I hoped she was okay. In fact, no one was out, I was alone. Except for him.
He was on my side of the street. I wanted to cross to the other side of the street…but good manners, all those things we’re taught are the right things to do, kicked in. I kept my course. Crossing would insult him. I must be neighborly. I passed him and breathed a sigh of relief.
It was the last relaxed breath I took.
No shadows warned me.
I tried to scream, and couldn’t. I had nightmares as a kid, with dream screams included - when you open your mouth and forget how to exercise your voice. This was real, and worse than anything my childhood imagination could have conjured. His hand was clamped around my neck and squeezing all ability to scream out of me. His other arm wrapped around my arms and chest, my legs off the ground. Tossed around, like a ragdoll. I was no ragdoll. I was a mother, a wife, a person.
We had been in front of a corner house. The one with the beautiful Spanish pottery. I had noted the pottery every time I passed, but not once had I noticed the bushes to the side of that house. I would never have known two people could be hidden so fully by them.
The force with which I hit the ground left me without air, and his weight fell on top of me faster than I could fill my lungs. I knew I had to fight. I knew everything I was supposed to do. But I couldn’t. No amount of effort produced any results. I was overpowered.
I was overpowered.
I forced the faces of those I loved into my mind’s eye. When this is over, I thought, I will open my eyes, and all of us will stare into his.
I will show him I’m still here.
I heard another car pass by, on the street of my neighborhood.