Taryn Learns a Lesson Pt. 2

Safety is such a subjective matter. Everyone has their own interpretation of safety. For me, autonomy has always been at the center of my core. Personal safety, however, has not been something I’ve had to define for myself, even as a woman. Before this incident, I was certainly in the minority, as I never really questioned my safety. I had always adhered to practical rules for traveling solo. That and I have a very muscular 55 lb border collie mix who has no problem voicing her dislike for people. Even as a pup, she challenged a 120 lb pit mix when it came running down the street to attack us on a nighttime stroll. At 36 lbs during this event, she held her own, only sustaining a surface wound on her backside. I was more traumatized than she. But anyway, I’m off topic.

Saturday Morning

I woke up, like any other day, and Abbey and I went for a decent-sized walk. I felt like I owed it to her for the other day. On that walk, I called my dad. We chatted for a bit and caught up. He was in Maryland for the funeral of his great uncle. There, he was re-introduced to family members he hadn’t been in contact with since his childhood. I remember hearing his disbelief and awe about family problems that sent a rift between his grandfather and great uncle. He had enjoyed catching up with cousins and the like and lamented about how much time had passed for this to occur. That moment stuck with me as I realized how important it was to let things go and not to harbor grudges.

Anyway, I had told him about the second conversation I had with Brett and how it was not my cup of tea. I then thanked him for being such a great male role model for me and demonstrating healthy boundaries. One of the things I had come to ascertain from my experience with Brett was how easy it is for an unassuming woman to fall prey to his creepy advances. Fortunately for me, I was not interested or charmed by his behavior and I made sure my actions and words matched that sentiment. Still, the observationalist in me could see the parallels of overbearing behavior being misconstrued as loving or amorous.

Society does not help in matters such as these. Older men are often regarded as wise, smarter than the average idiot 20-something male, and the age stigma has certainly decreased over time. That and I’ve observed women in their 20s abandon their sense of self when receiving the attention of a seemingly well-established older male. Fortunately for me, my bullshit detector is in full form, so Brett’s charming facade had more cracks than a broken mirror.

Again, I can’t take full credit as my relationship with my father really informs my relationships with members of the opposite sex. I’m fortunate in the sense that I can talk to my dad about anything and we have a very candid friendly relationship. As I’ve grown older, it’s only improved. So after an hour-long chat, Abbey was happy with the prolonged outdoor adventure, so she and I retreated back into the condo.

I always feel like…

Maybe it’s the writer in me, or maybe it’s because I enjoy being alone, I am very good about observing my surroundings– even if I don’t heed my internal warnings. Back in the condo, I sink into this retro leather recliner, which is positioned by the window and balcony door. I should mention that the condo is a studio, so I was sitting by the only window. Since we are right by one of the exits, I keep the blinds partially open so that people on the outside can’t see us. That and it provides enough cover for me to creep on passerby’s undetected. For the first time in 28 days, I saw a shadowy figure outside the window that was seemingly not going away.

…somebody’s watching me

Intrigued, I was curious and annoyed by the person lurking by my window. I had grown accustomed to people walking by on weekends, but this was different, as the person was there for a few minutes. I cautiously proceed to the window, careful not to give away my position as I peeked through the blinds. To my dismay and creeped out vibes, it was Brett, standing there with his phone. A few seconds later, my phone beeps He was texting me while trying to nonchalantly peer through my window. At this point, chills were going down my spine as I open the message. Why the fuck was he by my window?

Creepy Texts

“Hey, how are you doing? You seemed a little off last night. Wanna hang out?” was the message on my phone. Again, I had just met this dude, and I’m 100% sure, I kept my cool when leaving. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being a chameleon, so his constant comments were absurd.

“Sorry if I was obnoxious,” again adhering to the stupid social contract. “I can’t. I’m packing to leave. I will let you know if things change.”

“It’s fine, I videotaped you and put it on YouTube,” was his response.

My heart sank to my feet as I was utterly thrown and disturbed by the comment. Who the fuck says that and in what world did he think that was ok? He was still by my window and at that moment, I felt stuck in the condo. Ignoring the text, I decided to ignore the situation. This dude can’t bother me unless I engage. Still, I had no desire to leave the tiny studio because he was lurking about. I remember feeling a sense of dread and frustration.

I hate when people intrude on my space, especially when it’s unwelcomed. That and there was literally no reason for him to be on my side of the condo. The rest of the day proceeded with him, sending more texts asking to hang out and apologizing for the YouTube comment. So clearly he recognized how inappropriate that text was. I ignored them all. The fact that he kept texting even though I had explicitly said I would let him know really pissed me off.

If this were a normal situation, I would have called him out and told him to fuck off. But seeing as the complex was nearly vacant and the only other people I knew were away, I just didn’t want to risk it. At this point, it was clear something was off with the dude, and I didn’t have any real recourse should he go off the deep end. For the first time in my 29 years of existence, I realized that my safety was compromised and it was a disturbing feeling.

Condo Barricade

Come Sunday morning, I basically barricaded myself in the condo. I didn’t want to run into him, even for a second. I was so paranoid that instead of taking Abbey out to pee using our normal route, I used the entrance a few feet from the condo. This required me to pick her up, carry her over the grated flooring (she refused to walk it, and I can’t blame her, it would’ve shredded her paw pads), let her do her business, and then carry her back over the floor. Neither of us enjoyed this process, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Around 1 pm, I was fed up feeling like a prisoner and I really needed to get some work done. I made the decision to drive down the mountain to go to Starbucks. My car was located in the downstairs garage. It was literally a 45-second walk, there’s no way I’d run into Brett. Still, I had this sinking feeling that I could not shake. I made the decision to ignore my apprehension, weighing the odds to go through with it. There’s no way I’d let some creepy asshole deter me from going on about my day. I said a quick goodbye to Abbey and then tiptoed down the hallway. As I opened the door to the stairwell, before I could get a look at the figure before me, a pair of arms pulled me into an embrace. It was Brett.

Stupid Stairwells

There are no words in the English dictionary to describe how it feels when someone– who is bigger and stronger– puts their body on yours when you don’t want them to. I hate being touched without permission. I especially hate it when it’s a person that I had been actively trying to avoid. My first instinct was to pull away. As I began to squirm, he hugged me tighter and harder, stifling my attempts to free myself. I could not get out. Until that moment, I had never felt so physically powerless in my life. This was not a friendly hug, and I knew exactly what he was trying to convey– control and dominance. He succeeded, as I went limp, understanding that I didn’t have the strength to fight him off. I just stood there, waiting for him to be done.

“Hi!!” He screeched, finally letting me go.

“I don’t like hugs,” I mumble not making eye contact, pushing past him to head to my car. I was spooked and wanted to get away. He clearly did not get the hint as he followed me to my car.

“Where are you going?” he asked

“Coffee shop,” I muttered.

“Do you need a printer? I have one. You can come up,” he said as he walked me to my car. “Is this your car?”

Shit, I thought. Now this fucker knows my vehicle and basically every important detail about my whereabouts.

“I’m fine, thanks,” I mutter, trying to get into my car.

“You seem standoffish as opposed to the other night,” he mentions. “Don’t forget to stop by and say goodbye before you leave. You have to promise me you’ll stop by. I’ll find you if you don’t.”

At this point, I was flabbergasted. Keep in mind, this is Sunday afternoon. I met this dude Friday late morning and had only 2 conversations. For him to be so pushy was insane to me. That and I was still trying to deal with the ambush that just happened. What stood out to me the most was his word choice. Even though he tried to appear “friendly”, everything was a command, order, or a threat.

“Yeah, I’ll stop by,” I say in a frustrated tone. “I need to go.”

“Ok, no need to be pushy,” he fake-jokingly retorted with his hands in the air as if I was overreacting.

At this point, I didn’t care about how he perceived my behavior. I got into my car and went down the mountain. I decided to shove the encounter to the back of my mind. I had work to do and still needed to finish cleaning and packing. Still, I couldn’t help but think about his comments about saying goodbye. I decided that I would stop by, but on my terms and I would have the control.

To be continued…

 

Taryn Learns a Lesson Pt. 1

Hi there!

It’s been quiet on my end. Mostly because I’ve been trying how to wrap my head around an experience I had during the last 48 hours of my stay in Brian Head. Long story short, I unwittingly became the object of affection for one creepy ass middle age White guy. (Spoiler alert, this is a profanity-laced post.) Now, I’ve felt a lot of things about this experience, some being shame, guilt, fear, confusion, rage, a lot of pretty lame feelings. Truthfully, I wasn’t going to share it, that is, until he emailed me today, almost 4 weeks after the incident.

What happened

Monday– a week before I was slated to leave Brian Head– Abbey and I decided to go outside and play in the snow. It was May 23, but you’d never know it based on the inches of fresh powder on the ground. Because we were the only ones outside and because Abbey seems to have a penchant for the snow (seriously, she was like a pig in slop), I let her run around off-leash.

Everything was going pretty well. Abbey was having the time of her life, and I was enjoying watching my beloved partner in crime prance around in the snow. That moment changed when I saw some random dude with a dog that I was sort of familiar with. Bruce, the dog, belonged to this weird chick (who I later found out was dating the son of Roger, the condo’s caretaker) that had terrible social skills. Anyway, Abbey was staring at me and the man and Bruce were behind her. Sensing that something was up, Abbey turned around and immediately ran after the guy.

I frantically tried to run after her, screaming for her to stop, but I was calf-deep in fresh powder, so I was going nowhere fast. By the time I caught up to her and the man and Bruce, the man tried to shove Abbey back as she barked at him quite viciously. I should mention that Abbey is generally friendly, so why she behaved so aggressively was beyond me. In hindsight, Abbey saw what I did not, which is precisely why she’s earned all the treats in the world.

Anyway, I mumble out an apology, embarrassed, I scold Abbey and we trudge off to the condo. I really can’t explain why, but the interaction felt off in some way, but since Abbey was technically the offender, I took responsibility. I wish that was the only interaction I had with that dude, but I suppose that would make this story boring.

Caught off guard

Fast forward to Friday, it’s the morning, around 10am. Abbey and I had gotten out late as I had overslept. My plan was to quickly let her out to do her business and then I would shower and become a semi-productive member of society. It was quite sunny and the snow had significantly melted. As Abbey was finishing up, I caught a glimpse of a man in my peripheral vision who was seemingly going to the rec room/laundry facility. He hesitated for a second, but then changed direction and walked my way.

“Hey, you’re Trevor’s friend, right?” He asked. “I saw you in his Truck the other day.”

I was taken aback because, A, I’m literally the only Black person for at least 40 miles, so in my head, the comment didn’t make sense. B, the way he began the interaction was jarring. I can’t really describe it, but it felt forced and inorganic. But, thanks to that old stupid social contract we dumb humans abide by, I go against my better judgment and reply that he must have mistaken me for someone else. Anyway, he offers his name, Brett, and goes on a spiel about himself and how he was writing a memoir on his abusive upbringing.

I should mention that Roger,  had mentioned someone that fit Brett’s description. I think this put my guard down further because it established a sort of familiarity. I immediately put 2 and 2 together and tell him that I had heard about him from Roger. The interaction with the caretaker stuck with me because he had mentioned how shitty the man’s family was and how grateful that he never had such experiences. I had told him that Roger had mentioned him a few weeks ago and Brett had asked if I was staying in the Airbnb condo across from Roger. I said yes, not thinking anything of it. Up until that point, the few people I did meet in Brian Head were quirky, polite, and generally kept to themselves, so I didn’t see the harm.

Maybe I felt pity for the man, or maybe I felt charitable enough to have a conversation with a human, but Brett ended up highjacking an hour and a half of my time. What was supposed to be a 5-minute pee break became a battle of intellect of sorts. See Brett was doing his best to appear impressive and well-read. Very few people can get the jump on me when it comes to mental sparing, so my ego was in full swing. That and he seemed harmless. It also didn’t help that he appeared normal and attractive enough for me to cut him more slack than I would’ve given the circumstances. I mean he was basic White dude attractive, mid-50s, in shape, with steely blue-ish green eyes. Friends, evil comes in the form that we least expect. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been so eager to chat, but, there’s no use in crying over spilled milk.

What I appreciated about the conversation was the Brett seemingly was able to keep up (for the most part) and appeared to be somewhat of a critical thinker. We chatted about politics, the world order, how dumb society was, and religion. I outwitted him in all categories (see, dumb ego at its finest) but, I still had considered him a decent debater. He went on to proclaim how dumb it was to believe in God, and in my mind, I thought how dumb he was for not. Still, I believe that everyone has a right to live as they see fit and I told him just as much.

I’m not going to go over the whole entire conversation because it wasn’t really relevant, but I will go over some of his mannerisms and demeanor that raised concerns in my thoughts. For one, there was this underlying aggression in his tone and stance. When he was speaking about things he disagreed with, he’d clench his fist and lean in, closing the distance between us. I remember thinking to myself, “that’s odd, his behavior almost seems menacing. Interesting.” The second flag was that he kept correcting me when I spoke, even though I was right. This annoyed me, but there was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on about this dude, so I allowed the interaction to continue. I figured, it could make for a great story one day. Boy, was I right.

I tend to have a clinical approach when it comes to interacting with others, disassociating from my emotions to better assess the person I’m engaging with. If I’m being honest, one of the reasons I do this is to find weaknesses or tells to exploit so that I can manipulate the conversation. This isn’t because I’m trying to be evil or manipulative, but rather it helps me ascertain the person’s thought process, how to better converse with them in a manner that is comfortable to them, and best of all, it allows me to hide in plain sight. Admittedly, I keep myself close to the vest, so being able to size up an opponent allows me to mirror their behavior/mannerisms, giving them what they would most likely enjoy in the interaction without me having to be fully present. I know, it sounds very serial-killer of me, but, it is what it is.

Anyway, I was trying to wrap it up, and he kept mentioning that he had to go, but then he’d start on some other diatribe that would last 10 minutes. I remember being annoyed about my time being stolen. Plus Abbey kept sighing every few moments and I knew she wanted to leave. Before going our separate ways he’d mentioned how financially secure he was and asked if I’d like to come up for a beer and chat, to which I politely declined. This type of conversation wasn’t new to me. If I had stock in how many times I get hit on by White dudes his age, I’d never have to work again. Still, my ego was loving this, so leaving him with rejection was fun.

Uninvited Guest

When I got back to the condo, I called my dad and told him of the incident, joking that I had found my sugar daddy. At that point, I didn’t think anything of it as it was just a waste of my time, but nothing major. After getting off the phone with my dad, I heard a knock at my door. Puzzled, I naively answer it. It was Brett standing at my door. 

Slightly annoyed at the intrusion, I step outside to assert some sort of boundary. Before I could say anything, he offers an apology, saying sorry if his comments about God offended me. I was taken aback by his display of sheepishness, especially since I didn’t give any indication of offense when we were talking. At that moment, I felt bad for his feeling bad at his remark, probably because I’ve been known to stick my foot in my mouth, I felt compassion for him. This overrode my sense of feeling that my space was invaded. In other words, it made me drop my guard. 

I accepted the apology and attempted to make him feel better for his comments. Again, in hindsight, it was dumb. He then asked if I’d like to go on a trail with him and Bruce. I say yes, because I like the outdoors and he said this spot was the best. He says to meet up in an hour and went away. At first, I was weirded out but then was reassured that Abbey would be there if anything got weird. So I showered and got ready. Fortunately, my intuition got the better of me, so when he showed up again at my door, I made an excuse about work and that maybe I’d meet him up there. He gives me his number and leaves.

I wish I could say that’s where the story ended, but it doesn’t. A couple of hours roll by and I felt bad for lying about bailing, so to be nice, I wrote a quick text apologizing for flaking and that I hope it was a good trip. He quickly responds that he’s back and that I should come up for coffee and a chat if I was free. I didn’t see the harm in that so I did.

Gaslighting Conversation

So, I go to his condo, (writing this, I’m cringing) knock to which he shouts “it’s open”. I look around and the condo is in pristine condition. I mean it was tidy. He was in the kitchen making food for himself. He offered me some, to which I declined. He then sticks a fork-full of pasta in my direction, insisting that I try it. Begrudgingly I obliged.  Without warning, he then proceeds to run on about his life, the various abuses that he suffered growing up, his shitty parents, his shitty foster dad. It was a lot of personal information to absorb in such a short amount of time that it didn’t seem genuine. In fact, it well like he was reciting a shopping list. I remember feeling annoyed and exasperated thinking “ok dude, you were beaten and sexually assaulted, can we please move on”. 

This went on for about an hour, and I barely got in a word, and when I did, he’d have some thinly-veiled backhanded comment towards it. One that I distinctly remember was him saying, “you seem really guarded like you’re unemotional to protect yourself.” That threw me off because while I am pretty lowkey, I’m able to supply information if the moment calls for it. Seeing as I only met the dude a few hours ago, I didn’t feel the need to share the deepest darkest secrets of my life. Still, even though I didn’t agree with the comment, I felt the need to be agreeable. He’d go on to say things about him being older, which gave him a wiser perspective. His experiences made him smarter than me. At that point, I was over trying to be nice as he was just being an asshole with a smile. As I was preparing to leave, I made an asshole comment about being a magnet for old White dudes his age. He took it as a compliment when I meant it was an insult.

For some reason, I realized that I wasn’t in a situation I could control. I couldn’t help but remember his slightly aggressive demeanor from the morning and it was getting late. Even though I’ve been traveling solo for about 7 months, being with a strange man alone was not smart. After all, it was the off-season and there were only like 5 people staying in the giant condo complex. My instincts kicked in and I phoned a friend, pretending like she called me. I “took” the call and went back down to my apartment thinking that this would be the last I’d see of him. After all, it was Friday evening and I was leaving Monday morning. I figured I’d write off the time wasted. But what I thought was an annoying afternoon became the impetus for the more antagonizing 48 hours of my life.

To be continued…