I’ll start this post with the time I was followed by a sailor in downtown Vancouver. How my mother had gone to one department in Woodward’s, and I had stayed on the first floor happily looking at things that would interest a 15 year old. Until the sailor started following me, closely, doggedly, and I was ducking behind pillars, frantic to get to away from the shadow that wouldn’t leave me alone…
That was my first time, and on the scare scale, it was off the charts at the time. Now, looking back over my life, that incident would only score ‘moderate’ on the scale. Because there have been scarier times since. Times that were – notably - closer to home.
In first year university, I met a nice guy in the first few weeks of school. He was cheerful, affectionate, responsible. Well-liked by my friends. We became a popular couple, in demand for social events. He went away to England for the summer, to visit his family who lived there. In those four months, something changed inside me. I don’t know why. But sadly, I no longer felt the same way about him.
He arrived back at school with gifts and delight to see me. I burst into tears and told him that distance had changed my feelings. I was so sorry. We parted sadly.
And then the telephone calls started. Bitter, accusing calls. I won’t repeat the words, but the message was clear: he was angry – angry enough to risk his pride and get public about it - and I was very frightened. I did the classic female thing and tried to defuse the situation by repeating that distance had driven us apart. It was no one’s fault. I thought that would be the end of it.
I was wrong. That wasn’t the end of it. Why did I run away when he crossed the street? I was being unreasonable. He just wanted to talk to me. And show me that I was wrong about us. He could make me love him again.
This man lived a few blocks over. He would be on campus for another two years.
Friends both male and female were appalled. I took to going nowhere without them. I didn’t walk to campus, or between classes, without a friend at my side. I let my male friends know that I was frightened of my ex, and they stepped up. I’ll always be grateful.
When I think back to that time, I remember the fear. The blinding panic. This is what I recall: Your ears turn off. You can’t hear anything when you are gripped by that fear. You can hardly see. Your heart pounds and you have trouble breathing. All of you – every bit of you focuses on getting away.
To this day, I wonder what it is in some men that makes them think that frightening you can possibly entice you to love them again.
That was forty years ago. Since then, I’ve been a bank manager in a scuzzy area of town. I’ve taught college kids for years and years. I’m pretty hard to intimidate now.
This is what age and experience does for you. Back then, I was frightened. Now, I am angry. This is bullying. This is what a bully looks like.
It looks like a young man who won’t take no for an answer.