For the past several months I’ve been editing posts to be SEO-friendly. Then, I stopped writing. Not because I was out of ideas but because I was spending a majority of my allotted blog time stressing over metrics. It’s just not my style to worry about making myself marketable. To get back to basics, I have a slightly scary story to tell you.
I’ve been living in Chicago, for two full weeks and I decided to be brave and take a solo trip. I didn’t go to Jamaica like a much braver friend of mine did, instead I went to one of the many parks to read.
The Poison Heart, by Kalynn Bayron is my novel of choice and sitting on a wooden bench with trees towering over me and wildflowers tickling my ankles makes for a better scene than my current cozy setup.
I enjoyed seeing all the Black people enjoying the same summer breeze. In this city, I felt less alone. However, when there is a moment of true peace a creepy man will always find a way to ruin it.
I followed the paths through the park and saw the lake in the distance. I didn’t realize I’d been walking for a long time, and decided to follow the groups of families and friends towards the shore.
On the sidewalk, I walked between two dogs and their owners debating over whether one was in heat and why.
I heard a man singing and turned to see a man about my height in a blue tank top on his bike in the street. He stopped singing and looked back.
Even though it was barely a moment, I suppose it was enough for him to feel entitled to invading the peace I had finally gained.
He crossed over in front of me, then slowed his bike. I didn’t want to try and go around him since I was unsure of his intentions. He needed to stay where I could see him.
He got off his bike and started checking his phone, like he was looking for directions. He refused to walk faster until I gave up and tried to go around him; now, we were walking side by side.
“My name is Charles”, he said unsolicited.
I said, “Hi Charles”, and tried to speed up towards the group of friends now in front of us.
“You not gonna tell me your name?” (or something like that)
“No”, I replied.
I managed to get around him as we were entering the path to cross the bridge to get to the lakeshore. I crossed and walked maybe two feet away from the group of people who didn’t seem to notice the situation I was in.
He crossed to the other side. I wish the story ended there, but of course it didn’t.
Second & Third Contact
The paths immediately brought us back together, and I continued to walk behind the friends, allowing myself to enjoy the scenery.
I could see in my peripheral vision that he was behind me, despite having plenty of time and space to go around us. At the next fork in the bridge, I scooted past an older Black man on his bike and slipped down to the trail.
I looked back to see where he went, I suppose he was stuck behind everyone walking up.
I chose to walk where other people could see me. I kept glancing to see if he was hiding behind the bridge – waiting for me to backtrack so he could catch me when no one else was around to be my shield.
I was able to catch my breath and take some photos. I saw boats hopping on the waves and the blue haze of the cityscapes inspired me to feel joy.
Almost like it was his mission to ruin my day, he inevitably appeared once more.
He walked along the path and kept pretending to text on his phone, all the while looking up at me whenever I looked down at my own.
I vehemently posted to my Instagram story and texted my family.
Determined to violate my boundaries further, he made his way down. He knew better than to try and talk to me, at least with witnesses around. When he stood across from me, I took a quick photo of him and shared it.
I saw a couple walking towards my exit, and sprinted up to them.
“Hi, this may sound weird but that man with the bike is following me. Can I walk with you?”
Two of the lessons being an Iowan taught me are 1) to talk to strangers and 2) ask for help when I need it.
They agreed to help me and I explained THE STORY to them. The woman looked back and saw him following us. Thankfully, he didn’t follow us up the bridge.
They walked me to the park after making sure I had a plan, and I thanked them.
After walking towards the busy center of the neighborhood I was in, I updated my family, and called my mom.
CONCLUSION & THE PURPOSE OF THIS POST
Here I was, taking a nice stroll in the summer afternoon enjoying my life, when a random man decided he had the right to ruin everything because he wanted… ?
I don’t even want to imagine what he wanted.
The purpose of this post is to share my story. I’m sharing this story to empower myself. To take back control over my right and desire to experience the world around me, without fear that a stranger will intercept me with every outing.
I should be able to go for a walk by myself and not have to worry about being followed and harassed.
Now that I am in a city where I am able to go essentially anywhere with public transit, I will not be scared into staying locked in my tower, hiding away from the monsters of this world. I am entitled to this much.
I will continue to use my blog to share my life lessons and experiences as I see fit. I’ve been gone for a while, but now I’m back. Enjoy!