I sat on the hood of my car in the deserted strip center parking lot, brooding over the fresh argument with my boyfriend, jingling my car keys in my hand, trying to decide what to do. Go back in or go home? He was still in the club - music drifted out of the building and across the street to me. I imagined him in there flirting, dancing, not giving me or our argument a second thought.
The figure came out of the shadows at the end of the building, walking slowly toward me along the storefronts. He was about my age, a little taller than me, and skinny. Scrawny. I didn't feel threatened or wary at all.
I probably smiled and said hi when he got near enough. If you're nice to people, they're nice to you, right? He stopped and asked me for directions to somewhere...I don't remember where. Then sometime...somehow...while I was answering him, he was suddenly in front of me, trying to take my keys out of my hand, telling me to give them to him, to get in the car.
My hands clamped down tight on my keys, but his arms were wrapped around me, and I couldn't break free, couldn't get loose. He was strong! Way stronger than he looked. I refused to give up, though. I didn't really think about it - I just knew I couldn't do what he wanted me to do. I kept fighting, twisting, turning. I started yelling, SCREAMING at the top of my lungs...HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!
Then, just as suddenly as he'd grabbed me, he let go. He ran into a field beside the parking lot and disappeared into a nearby neighborhood.
Shaking, crying, I ran to the club and told my boyfriend what happened. He walked me back to my car, looked around in the direction of the neighborhood, saw nothing, and told me to go home. I did. And that's it. Didn't call the police, not even sure I told my parents. Just went home, in shock from the close call.
That was more than thirty years ago. When I think about that night, I'm so grateful that I'm not really as nice as I try to be most of the time, grateful that I instinctively fought back, that I didn't just do as he ordered, that I refused to give up. I'd rather not think about what might have happened otherwise.
I also can't help wondering what happened to that guy...where did he go? Where is he now? Did he find some other victim that was nicer, one that perhaps gave up easier or couldn't fight back? I feel really guilty that I was satisfied with my own safety - in that way I did quit and give in to him. I should have gone to the police, or done SOMETHING to keep this guy from attacking someone else. But I didn't.
I didn't stop trying to be nice to strangers that night, thank goodness. But I did learn to be wary. I'm less trusting, more cynical and suspicious. I still give "nice" a try, but my "fight" is just under the surface.
I see the world and the way nations relate to each other (specifically the US to others, of course) in relation to my experience. I think it's foolish to believe that we can resolve anything with terrorist leaders by just talking to them, trying to reason with them. Being "nice". Of course, these should be the first steps in resolution - ALWAYS at least TRY talking - but I guess I'm aware from my experience that there are some people that aren't nice, don't want to or aren't able to reason, people that will just take advantage of YOU being nice, see it as a weakness to exploit. "Fight" should always be an option, and if you put it off too long...well, sometimes it's just too late.
And my guilt that I was satisfied with my own safety reminds me that our country shouldn't just be satisfied with our own safety - I feel we have a responsibility to help protect other countries from the world versions of my attacker, not just let them run off and attack someone less willing or able to fight back.
I am by no means a war-monger. I hate violence, hate fighting. I don't even like arguing. I am a peacemaker, a compromiser, a "Big Picture" person. I will talk a problem to death. But I realize not everyone is that way, not everyone is reasonable, and sometimes, to ensure peace, you have to be willing to stop talking, to fight, to stand up for yourself or for others. That's what I learned in the parking lot that night. I'm glad I'm still here to share it.