Sometimes our memories fill us with longing nostalgia; a brief flash to a simpler time. Sometimes, we don’t get so lucky.
I have many memories of unpleasantries, but there are a few I need to write about to ease my mind. I’m tired of these sick older men haunting my thoughts.
Many men are unaware of the struggles women face from birth to death. Even the women who are not conventionally “sexy” have problems with being sexually assaulted. If this bothers/triggers you, stop reading now.
As a teenage girl I was incredibly naive and overly trusting of strangers. I ended up at their houses for dinner (usually to buy pot, or to get alcohol underage). Those scenarios usually only ended with awkward silences or weird text sessions but they never seemed to escalate, luckily. I met most of these people over 3ish years at my job at a “ma and pa”type thrift store. Of all the filth and disgusting comments made to me over that time, I would brush it off and move on with my day. Except for one specific customer.
It was a cold winter night, dark by 5pm. The store was only open until 5 so I was rarely leaving too late after dark. A man who looked exactly like DJ Qualls (pic below) came in one night in an oversized blue jacket.
He looked like he was just running in for something quickly. He asked me where the winter gear was (hats, gloves, scarves, etc.) and I walked him over to the somewhat-hidden section we kept those in. Since we were slow in the store (aka empty other than employees and this guy) I stayed with him and helped him pick out a nice set of matching gloves/hat that looked never used. He went on his merry way and I thought that was simply a pleasant interaction with a nice customer.
A few days later… he came back. That was not abnormal; we frequently had “regulars” and I watched many new customers become “regulars” over the years. I didn’t think anything of it for a little while. I went about my business and worked.
I had an extremely nervous coworker, Mary, who would occasionally come to the front when I was overwhelmed and help me out. The first day he came back, she came out from the back room to help me and was trembling. I’m not exaggerating; she was trembling so hard I thought she was having a breakdown or something. She leaned in and whispered “look” to me and nodded at the back wall of the store, directly across from me. There he was. Standing still as a mannequin (possibly why I didn’t notice him) and staring so hard at me with this evil looking grin. I smiled as if nothing was wrong and went back to work, although internally I was terrified. I had never in my life seen someone look at me like that; like a predator waiting for their prey to be isolated. Mary quietly let me know that he had been doing that for upwards of an hour. How I managed not to notice is beyond me.
After a while, he came to the front counter to ask me when I’m off work. Mary immediately blurted “she has a boyfriend!” which I appreciated but was also a huge mistake. He immediately seemed to collapse inwards at the news. His face crumpled, he slouched and looked like he was going to cry. Then he switched to pure anger. I asked if he was feeling okay, to which he said “Okay?! How can I be okay?! You have a BOYFRIEND, no I’m not OKAY!” and stormed out. I was glad to be rid of him. Mary cried on the spot and told me she’s scared for me. I brushed it off as her having severe anxiety/depression and worrying too much for me (she was very motherly to me). Still, to be safe, my boss’s son, Daniel, had me leave early before it got dark. Not even ten minutes after I got home, Daniel called to say the creep was still waiting in the parking lot for me.
My boss’s son worked there with me and was often left in charge of the store. He was a verrrrrrrry big guy. He was 6’6″ and big. Not fat, but not muscular either. Just big. He spent the next week watching out for me and making sure I got in my car just fine after work. The creep seemed to have lost hope/gotten intimidated and he didn’t come back for a while.
When I finally thought I was rid of him, he came back again. This time, he paid with a debit card so I wrote down his name in case things really escalated. They did. The next time he came back after that he was being scary enough for me to call the police. He was lurking near the break room with a scowl, clearly waiting to catch me alone. I called the police and he ran, leaving his puffy blue jacket behind in his rush. When I gave them his name the officer on the line went from joking with me to dead serious. He said this man had just gotten out of a long term stay in a mental hospital; he was put in for stalking a young woman and got very violent with her. They immediately dispatched an officer but never found him. His jacket pockets had nothing in them except for a broken screwdriver; a wonderful shank. They told me that if I ever see him again to immediately call 9-1-1 and let them know I found a violent predator they’ve been looking for and to give them a case number. They apparently “red flagged” the case to high priority if a call came in about it since he was still “on watch” from the case that put him in a mental health facility.
Although they never did find him (to my knowledge) and he never came back, I’ve been scarred from this. People wonder why girls are so upset by catcalls or get uncomfortable when strangers hit on them. THIS IS WHY. If we remain nice, pleasant, and calm, we are still in danger of being stalked and murdered. This is the kind of bullshit women face all the time and it just amazes me how little men believe me when I tell them how dangerous it is just to have a vagina.