Tonight-is-Friday-September-1st is Anna Klos’ first piece for Cult of Americana
Tonight is Friday, September 1, 2017. I was followed home from my usual walk from the California Blue Line L station almost all the way to my house. On the L ride home, this stranger had pestered me with normal street harassment questions like “Hey, what’s your name?” and “Do you have a boyfriend?” and “Why aren’t you talking to me? You don’t even want to get to know me?” as if I owed it to him to give him the time of day which, at that point, was 1:30am and that made everything about 10 times creepier than the normal occasional heckle I get at 4:30pm commuting in to work.
I was a block from my house when he caught up to me. I was walking quickly and I assumed he was just some person walking home too, until I heard his feet speed up. Have you heard that sound before and felt your heart speed up way too fast? Your step gets quicker, almost as if you’re about to start sprinting at any second. You can feel the energy of the other person behind you, like a terrifying heat that sends prickles flashing in waves all over your skin.
He tried to talk to me, borrow my phone or some bullshit. He asked where I live, where I was going, if I was late, was my boyfriend waiting?
I could hear a faint buzzing in my ears, like the distant echoes of my mother’s voice saying over and over again “never walk by yourself, Annie, bad men are everywhere” like a fairytale that parents tell their children, except it’s real and it’s a basic rule of life that every mother tells her daughter because that’s just how things are here, and everywhere. Absolutely everywhere is like this. I told him to stop talking to me and I took a sharp right, passing my house on my left as I pretended to walk with confidence into the block beyond or wherever so he wouldn’t know where I lived. I held up my phone in front of me to see if I could make out what his reflection was doing but it wasn’t good enough. Taking a few more bigger, adrenaline pumped steps I chanced a look behind me and saw that he was doing a half walk half run type thing, as if he didn’t want me to hear how fast he was approaching.
And I lost it. I sped up, took a left onto the next street and as soon as I was out of eyesight I fucking launched myself off of the pavement and basically flew into the alley that I knew was right around the corner.
Trying to remember what it had looked like a couple days earlier when I was walking home through this alley with groceries, I scampered to the biggest clump of trashcans and hid behind them like a little rat, a terrified little rat, and my breath was so loud y’all it sounded like it was echoing off of every surface, finding its way into his ears.
I crouched, wishing I had taken exercise in general a little more seriously. I peered out, waiting to see him. There he was, passing quickly, looking up and down the alley. I couldn’t see properly though, he moved out of my vision and suddenly the fear was back in a new wave.
At this point I’m drenched in sweat and I just know that he’s coming down the alley, I can just sense it, I know he’s coming. I can hear his steps. They’re faltering, as if he doesn’t think he’s chosen the right way.
I think he’s gone. It feels like hours but I know it’s only seconds and I know that in the event that he actually comes down the alley looking behind every trash can, I would much rather face him head on standing like the grown woman that I am instead of fucking crouching like someone who doesn’t care if they’re found or not, they’re just going to lie down and take it.
He looks at me and starts forward, “I’m just trying to get to know you!”
“The fact that you followed me here is CREEPY AS FUCK dude.” My voice is shaking but I’m forcing the shake out of it by remembering what it felt like to do that Hamlet monologue last year.
“But I just want to get to know you!” He hasn’t taken a step forward and I’m trusting my voice more so,
“This is terrifying! This is NOT OKAY! I’m fucking terrified right now, you scared the shit out of me!”
He hasn’t moved but he hasn’t said anything so,
“You have to walk away right now. Walk. Away.”
He still hasn’t moved. I can’t really see his face, it’s in shadow.
“Fucking walk away PLEASE, walk away.”
But the way I said “please” didn’t sound like I was begging, more like I was appealing to the common rationality that I have to believe all humans have somewhere deep inside them. It was more of a warning, a reminder that I, too, am a person who deserves.
“Can I walk you home?” he asks.
“Walk away right fucking now.” This time I take a step towards him, threatening. Apparently I respond first with flight, then with fight.
He takes a slow step back. My macho has won this round. He takes another step back, and then turns, slowly walking away while watching me over his shoulder.
I wait until he’s gone around the corner and then start walk quickly down the alley, looking over my shoulder the entire time while holding my phone in my hand, ready to call 911. I see him peer around the corner one more time and I speed up again, not really caring whether or not he actually follows, wanting him to see that I am beyond his reach.
His head disappears behind the bushes of the wall on the further garage of the alley, and I dart into an alcove between the two closest garages and I hold myself. I just stand there, breathing, looking at the “beware of dog” sign on the fence I’m leaning against, just hugging myself. I’m my own mom right now, and I am 2 minutes from my house I can see my garage door, I can do this.
But first I have to sit in these shadows and breath and peek around the corner of this garage just in case and breath some more and keep peeking until I’m sure, I’m absolutely positive that there’s no person down there at the end of that alley, and the second I’m sure I’m running. I’m running so fast I don’t care how loud my work shoes are I don’t care how cold I am with sweat now, the post-partum of adrenaline. I’m charging, I look quickly to my right as I exit the alley to make sure he hasn’t somehow magically caught up with me and can anticipate my movements but I don’t really care because my front gate is here and I’m unlocking it and I’m slamming it behind [but not too loud, Ana is sleeping and I think Kevin is sleeping?] and I’m on my front porch and I just cower there, sliding my long, long self behind one of our leather chairs we brought out to sit on and enjoy music and podcasts and nice weather on a good day and I’m breathing in the dry smell of our porch and breathing as if I had just resurfaced from a deep sea dive.
Have you ever gone 100 feet underwater? Things are so soft there. When I first started diving I was a sophomore in college, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Everyone tells you about the bins and all that [which is definitely serious, don’t move faster than you should because that shit can kill you]. There’s an opposite effect that diving 100 feet gives you, though. It makes you euphoric.
My instructor told me one man he was diving with thought he felt just like a seahorse, he kept trying to gallop around 150 feet deep and his buddies had to just hold onto his fin because he was flying, his brain was so distressed by both the physical and mental pressure being that deep under water causes that it chose delirium over madness, and the man was the happiest seahorse in the ocean.
I’ve been high many times, but going that deep is different. It’s hard to breath, but you’re okay with it. I was, at least. We waved our hands frantically in front of our faces to see the phosphorescence, little glowing algae that only show up that deep if there’s friction. Someone had brought a tennis ball down with us, and everyone marveled at how it had folded in on itself. But mostly I remember feeling like I was being held, fully held by the water. I could see so far, on all directions, like this was a world I had entered. It was cold. You get numbed to it on your way down, but when you stop moving you feel like there could be frostbite on all of the edges of your body. All I could do was just sit there. My weights were perfectly balanced [you weigh yourself down with sandbags to counteract the air bubbles in your body that want to buoy you upward towards the surface] and I hovered just above the sea floor. I wasn’t fully a seahorse, but I was somewhere else. My mind moved in slow motion, and all that mattered was watching the small clumps of tanglewood and seaweed tendrils slowly wobbling back and forth in the subtle undercurrent. They looked enchanted.
Coming up from that dive was different. My body was numb, for one thing, and my eyes couldn’t handle the real light of the world but I gasped and couldn’t get enough air in to fill my lungs, I gasped and gasped as if I was trying to fill a balloon with a small hole in it. I imagine that’s kind of what everyone’s first gasp is like when they’re born, coming out of a floating state in liquid into a very real, very solid world.
I made it home safe, I’m safe now, I have good friends who are somehow miraculously sitting on the couch and at first I’m thinking I can keep it together and be cool but obviously that’s not what’s happening tonight and Karsten holds me and tells me to breathe and I’m 100 feet underwater again and it’s hard to breathe but I’m okay with it. My body is cold and I’m shaking but I’m okay with it. I’m okay. I’m okay. There’s phosphorescence glowing behind my eyelids when I close them and if I move my hands enough I can see them suspended in air, even under all this pressure.