Whenever I am walking alone at night I always try not to look creepy, but it never works. Literally minutes ago I had a delightfully horrifying encounter.
So I am walking to the library down Oglethorpe. It’s all dark and whatnot and there’s really no one walking about, but I get this feeling that there is someone walking behind me. So naturally I look over my shoulder and discover that there is indeed a curly headed young woman walking alone several paces behind me. Cool enough. She’s clearly not a large ax-wielding maniac. So I keep on walking, rocking out to Julia Nunes in my headphones (I am learning that I am never listening to particularly manly music in these stories).
But there was something about that curly mass of hair behind me. Did I know the owner of said curly mass? I know several girls whose silhouette would fit the one walking behind me. So I take another look over my shoulder. Nothing too weird or lingering, but a definite turn to look. No, I did not know her. But now there is this lingering fact that this perfectly innocent girl, walking alone in the dark has seen me, a rather large man, deliberately turn around twice to look at her.
Then I came to a crosswalk right as it changed to the Do Not Walk signal. I stop to let the cars go. There are only a few so they go quickly, way faster than the Do Not Walk signal can change.
These are to be obeyed. It’s a law and stuff.
Now I don’t like to jaywalk. I’m never in much of a hurry so I will wait at an intersection even though there are no cars simply to make the walk take longer. So that is what I do.The only problem is that the curly haired girl is gaining on me. I stand there awkwardly, fearing the encounter that may occur if she reaches me while I am just awkwardly standing at an empty street.
Just cross the street. That’s all I have to do. Cross the street, no interaction, everything’s fine.
I don’t move. I stand and wait for the crossing signal to change. She walks up beside me and stops because I am stopped. She looks at the road and then at me. I look at her, probably a little too long. I smile to reassure her that I am not a creep. I want to say something like “I don’t like to jaywalk.” Put her at ease. But sadly, I just stand there silent and smiling. Towering over her in the darkness.
So naturally she doesn’t stick around and crosses the street, signals be damned. That’s when I realize that if I were some creep from a horror movie that this would be the go to move for any whack-job-street-assailant. Spot someone walking behind you, wait at a traffic stop for him or her to pass you, and then pounce. And I suddenly feel so much guilt for now putting this innocent woman in this position.
The crossing signal changes and I cross the street. Unfortunately she’s not very far ahead of me so I’m closing in fast. I want to slow down, give her time to get a good lead on me, but that would be weird. I put my head down so that she doesn’t turn and see me staring at her, but once again that’s not a great image to put out there.
I wrestle with what to do what to do, when suddenly I see her trying to open the gate to the courtyard to the church on the corner of Bull Street. I think “Hey, that’s odd. What’s she trying to get in there for?” Then I realize, “Oh man, she’s trying to get away from me.”
I want to call out to her. Say something reassuring like “Hey, I didn’t let you pass me so that I could hurt you or anything.” Or maybe run up to her and laugh out this whole misunderstanding. But luckily I bite my tongue because all of those options really only end with a face full of pepper spray.
Luckily she turned on to Bull Street once she reached it and I was able to walk passed her, hopefully letting her know that I was not an attacker. I hope she actually had to go down that street and wasn’t simply using it as an escape route.
As someone who scares easily, I genuinely feel bad every time I stumble into these awkward situations. If only there was a way to signal out to everyone that I mean them no harm. Maybe walk with a litter of puppies and a big sign that says “Nice Person.”