Once a week I read to a little girl in a reading program at an elementary school in D.C. Today the book she chose to read had a title something like, "The little old lady who was not afraid of anything." The story is about this little old lady who is walking back to her house through the woods after a day of berry-picking. As it gets darker and darker, she keeps encountering articles of clothing that are trying to scare her. It starts with a pair of shoes that "clomped, clomped" behind her and continue all the way up to a pumpkin head that would go "boo boo." They all followed her home. And still, she stoically maintained her I'm-Not-Scared stance. They even knocked on her door late at night, floating as a person, begging to scare her. Alas, she was not to be scared even then. I'm not sure what the moral of the story was - or atleast I did until the ending when all the articles of clothing fashioned themselves into a person and ended up working as a scarecrow. All at the lady's suggestion.
Perhaps face your fears? Or crows will ALWAYS be scared.
I thought, "That is some tough cookie. If only I could be that unphased by Those Things That Scare You." I mean, these pieces of clothing were the spitting image of the....Boogeyman. Yes, that one who hid under your bed or in your closet as a child. For that, I slept with the closet opened. This is the same boogeyman that was in my parent's bathroom as a child - he was always hiding in that bathroom. My sister taught me how to karate chop the shower curtain everytime you entered the bathroom in order to kill said boogeyman.
Is the little old lady telling me I need to look him in the eye and say, "I'm not scared of you."? Is the boogeyman nothing more than a bully? Easier said than done, Old Lady!
Rewind to yesterday. I was walking to my metro station at the end of the work day. Well, it was 4:30 which is a little earlier than I usually end my day - with the exception of Fridays (you know, happy hour) and when there is something better to do - two to three times per week. (I'm working for my weekends and my weeknights!) So, I guess not so early. So I did the DC Urban Yuppie March, which is IPod socked into ears - tuning out the stodgy political climate and Cheney's motorcade which roars, bangs, and whistles up 20th Street when he is in town (and it is not only his Pacemaker) - and instead tuning into hipster cool. Because, yeah, it is not Cheney. It's about the guitar, man. I don't see you, or hear you, and I will cross the street without looking because pedestrians rule (unless I am driving and then I have to remember that I am not playing Grand Theft Auto and can't actually run you over). When you are walking this cool you tend to ignore your surroundings. All your senses are impaired for that awesome song that accompanies your Commutter Strut to the Metro.
Never again will I partake in the DC Urban Yuppie March. It's simple. There is a reason you pay attention to your surroundings. It's the boogeyman. I learned yesterday that he is still out there and it is always YOU he wants.
I know that - not only, but especially - in the city, you need to PAY ATTENTION. Who is around you. Who is passing you by. Who is following you. You make eye contact with the people - and those Big Mean People, especially - you pass by to show that you are AWARE. So yesterday? I may have been neglecting my Big Brave Girl Don’t Fuck With Me Bravado because I was being followed. Apparently. I ignored the signs at first. At 19th and L I was aware of someone behind me - but there were people all around so I dismissed it. Then as we walked toward K Street I noticed a person walking the same speed behind me. Again, I dismissed this as That Annoying Person Who Walks The Same Pace As You or That Annoying Person Who Drives The Same Speed In The Next Lane Over. But at the red light at the intersection of K and 19th my music changed songs and I heard him.
“I am following you. I have been, pretty girl. You can’t run from me. Pretty Girl. You’re mine.”
That was not a joke. [This author is FOR REAL! --Reality Police] I quick shut the music off and turned around and stared the Boogeyman in the eyes but not long enough to actually See Them. I didn't want to See Those Eyes. They were supposed to be behind the shower curtain. He flashed me the creepiest smile and whisperered, “I’m talking to you, pretty girl. You won't get away.”
(What I should have said? "Oh honey, you must be joking. I didn't wash my hair this morning and it is all windblown and snarly from flapping in convertible wind that my Jackie O headband could not control. That is why it is greasy and pulled back in a very messy ponytail. I slept late this morning. And no makeup and I am well aware that these pants make me look fat. So I know you aren't talking to me. Talk to me like that when I actually do look pretty. Which is only Some Days even.")
But those thoughts don't come to you quite at This Moment. Would the Boogeyman even laugh?
All joking aside, I am kind of creeped out. In fact, I am very creeped out. I looked around to see if anyone standing around noticed this Lunatic. I couldn't tell if people were just kind of, "Sorry Charlie, he's YOUR boogeyman not mine" or if they really had NO IDEA. It's the city, people keep to themselves - minding their p's and q's and their own damn self. No, Toto, we are not in the South or the Midwest. This was Rush Hour - similar to "this is your brain on drugs", "this is your brain on rush hour." Yeah, they had their iPods plugged in too. Or the cell phone. And is that Cheney and Posse that just passed me by? Oh, I'm not a business interest.
So finally the light changed and I took off. So did the boogeyman just a pace behind me. I was in Panic Mode. I threw the iPod in the purse to show this guy that I WAS AWARE NOW. (If I had read the book a day earlier I would have confronted him with, "I'm not scared of you!" but I didn't know the little old lady's advice just yet. Remember, this is the past. Circa yesterday.)
I contemplated my choices. Do I cut through the International Square building like I always do? No. In hindsight, there is "security" in there but not the gun-toting kind and frankly I wanted Rambo just about now. Uzis. [The author is all talk, she most certainly would have stuck a flower down the barrell. --Reality Police] I opted to truck up K Street, thinking there would be more people around. I weaved through people with the Boogeyman still in hot pursuit. And I can still hear him laughing and rambling that "...I can’t get away from him. I'm right behind you. Pretty girl. You will never escape me." So I started a really fast walk, almost a jog and so did he. Dignity and Image is out the door at this point. I turn into a full-on run, shouting out, "Help me!" (Caw! Caw!) And I didn't look back until I reached 18th Street and I turned around and saw that he gave up the run for a walk. So he is old. I found the Achilles' heel - he can't keep up. So I continue running down the one block to the metro. And I continued running into and through the station until I safely made it on my train without the Boogeyman. I made sure.
There were no karate chops. No stomping of my foot and an "I'm not scared" declaration. Just fear. Pure fear! I'd like to be brave-hearted. But for now, I will just run as fast as I can. Because, who am I kidding? I'm like those crows who flap away from the the "scarecrow" - I will ALWAYS be afraid of the Boogeyman.