Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Which Chana Meets A Gallant Potential Rapist

Having somehow determined that it made sense to walk outside for a quick breath of fresh air at 1:10 AM, I decided to sit down on the benches by 34th & Lexington. There are several pretty green benches there, and I thought that if I sat down on one of them, that would be pleasant. I was playing with my hair and singing a bit when I see a figure walking toward me. It's a man about my age, perhaps a little older, who is actually very nice-looking, and is wearing jeans, a Mets t-shirt and a sweater. I expect that he'll pass me by, but instead he comes over to me and gives me his hand. There is nothing else to do, so I shake it.

MAN: And what's your name, my dear?

ME: (trembling) Ol-livia.

MAN: Livvy?

ME: (having stood up, poised to make a frantic escape) Lydia.

MAN: Lydia? Pleasure to meet you, my dear. Pleasure to meet you. (He steps in closer to me.) And what are you doing this fine evening?

ME: Me? I'm- I'm walking.

MAN: Let me accompany you on your way.

ME: Oh-I-I have to get back. (He steps in closer and I visibly startle, and jump.)

MAN: No worries, dear; I'm just walking your way. (He follows me as I walk up 34th and Lexington toward my dorm. I start walking faster.) Hey, hey, hey, darling, why are you walking so fast?

ME: (slows down, takes a deep breath- not a good idea to offend the potential rapist, aside from which, it's a couple days before Rosh Hashana, so if God wants something to happen me, and it's going to happen tonight, that's God's affair. But I trust Him, so hopefully I'm okay. I just have to talk my way out of this one, despite the fact that I am scared to death.) Okay, I'm sorry. I'll slow down. (I stop outside the 245 Building, where I am in clear sight of the Stern guard, who unfortunately doesn't notice my silent distress signals, and proceed to have the strangest conversation of my life.)

MAN: So I'm an Irish Catholic. You're a Jew, right?

ME: Yes.

MAN: And how are your studies going?

ME: Oh...well, they're not really. I mean, I'm kind of down. What about you?

MAN: (laughs) So I don't really study so much anymore. (pause) So I respect religion in your life. I'm a fucking Irish Catholic and we believe in the fucking Pope and all. (He leans closer, and I can smell the alcohol on his breath. I'm doomed.) You're a Jew, so for better or for worse, your religion is more strict than mine. (He is unintelligible now; I can't understand him.) We've got a language barrier problem, I can see. I'm from Brooklyn, you know.

ME: Brooklyn cops are the worst.

MAN: Yeah, well, my uncle was a cop in the Manhattan police force, so...

ME: Ah.

MAN: Anyway, have you ever heard of existentialism?

ME: (The Rav!) Um..it's philosophy or something like that, right?

(The Man now proceeds to regale me with his explanation of how we each perceive the world differently based on our backgrounds. This would all be fine, except he keeps on moving closer to me, touches me on the shoulder sometimes, and I can smell the alcohol on his breath. We continue this conversation and we note that I am apparently not accepting of sterotypes of Irish Catholics, and he tells me that I shouldn't think badly of him just because he's had a couple drinks, because he is not actually drunk. This because I decided to invoke the quote from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" where two kids are raised by an alcoholic; one of them becomes an alcoholic while the other never touches the bottle, and so they both had the same experience, but they made different choices. He thinks that those are two extremes and we need to walk the middle road- the shevil ha'zahav, though he doesn't say it that way. He explains to me he knows my position is unsavory; he's just a guy from the streets and I am a girl, and he considerately steps back when he sees I get scared when he comes too close to me- which means when he is touching my shoulder, or is otherwise almost in my face.)

MAN: What about you?

ME: Me? Well- I like the night. I find that everything is more- intense- at night.

MAN: (proceeds to explain to me exactly what I mean by things being intense at night)

ME: Well, thank you for your very profound and articulate explanation- I'll just be getting back now.

MAN: I'll walk you back.

(He walks me to my dorm. I ask him where he's going to spend the night, and he says he doesn't know, but he's used to fending for himself. Usually he spends the night at his place, but he's not up to doing that now. He works at a bar called "Third and Long." I tell him that unfortunately I can't have guests at the dorm, and he says he understands. He walks me almost to the door and then I shake his hand goodbye.)

MAN: (opening his arms and stepping forward a bit; again, I can smell the drink on his breath) Give me a kiss goodbye on the cheek?

ME: (squeamish, backing away) No...no, I'm sorry.

MAN: (gallantly) All right, my dear, that's fine. I just, I don't know how it works with you.

ME: (walking into the dorm, turning back) Listen, are you going to be all right?

MAN: Yes, my dear, I'll be fine. Thank you for worrying about me, though.

ME: No problem- good night- and God bless!

MAN: Right back at you.


I have never been so scared in my whole entire life.


Baruch said...

Is it just me, or does this type of stuff happen more often to frum people?

A few months ago, I was standing in the waiting room checking my mom in for some leg treatment when this guy just randomly approached me and started telling me his mathematical theory of how the universe works and how it coincides with the Torah.

I mean, I'm kind of down.
Yeah, me too.

Listen to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvjvF_Xf76s&feature=related and just replace the word "day" with "fortnight."

Cheers me up in an ironic sort of paint-your-fingernails-black way.

another parent said...

Do your parents read your blog?
This might frighten them.

PsychoToddler said...

don't ever do that again


tnspr569 said...

I agree with psychotoddler. Perhaps your strolls through the city should take place at earlier hours of the night, and with other people accompanying you.

Stay safe.

YU student said...

Chana,NY may be a lot of fun. But a young maiden in NY @ night and alone is simply not a good idea. Glad all is well. Take good care of yourself.

Stern girls said...

" I am the only one solo in this cafe
I am the only one writing about their faces....

Chana,some of us are aware that you like the night,you like to think while in darkness. But venturing out SOLO is the wrong solution to feeling down. Please take everyone's advice and keep safe!

dman said...

I had the same thought that "another parent" had. I'm not one of your parents and it frightened me.

I have a daughter in 11th grade who wants to go to SCW. Now I'm having second thoughts!

rivkayael said...

I had a similar encounter when going home from slichot at a UES shul. No more will I take for granted that Park Avenue is safe at 11:30 pm.

Unlike you, I sprinted. The person was walking in my direction, and I was so scared that he was going to block me or something. NYC is full of screamers, so I don't think anyone would have taken me seriously anyway.

dman said...

rivkayael wrote:
I had a similar encounter when going home from slichot at a UES shul. No more will I take for granted that Park Avenue is safe at 11:30 pm.

SCW doesn't have organized Selichot for its students?

Anonymous said...

If you are ever in a similar situation, RUN.

You have no idea how fortunate you are. That this was only some depressed slightly drunk man. It could have been a lot worse, and your decision to slow down and allow him to walk with you, could have cost you a lot more.

I don't want to lecture you, but there is no need to be polite in this kind of situation. I know it feels terrible not to shake someone's hand, or to ignore them when they ask you a question. But that's ok. Just stand up and GET OUT.

Stay Safe.

rivkayael said...

I'm from Revel, not SCW :)

Chana said...

anonymous 10:16,

Actually, I figured out pretty quickly that if I ran, that was when he would move. Every time I seemed to walk faster he got an uglynasty expression on, so I realized this was a different type of situation. But yes, under other circumstances, you are right.

everyone else,

I know, I know, and I'll be good from now on! and dman, don't not send your daughter to Stern because of this; I'll feel bad about it. And they do have organized Selichot.

another YU guy said...

Chana, follow these tips ALWAYS:

Listen to your instincts. If you find yourself thinking that a situation just isn’t quite right or that a person seems disingenuous, chances are good that you might be right. Your instinctive feelings are meant to keep you out of harms way, to try to pay attention to what they’re telling you.

Be alert. When walking through even crowded streets make sure to keep an eye out for anyone that could be following you or appears to be behaving abnormally. If you feel uncomfortable, get out of the situation immediately, don’t wait until it’s too late to do something.

Don’t worry about overreacting. If you feel unsafe or that you’re under attack, don’t worry about running, screaming, or getting out of a situation as quickly as possible. It’s better to look foolish than to end up getting hurt by a less than friendly native.

Maintain your personal space. Stay alert! If a person moves inside your comfort zone, move away. If that person persists, run.

New Yorker said...

You should be scared!
He now knows where you live.
Do exercise CAUTION at all times!

Shira Salamone said...

"He now knows where you live." Take advantage of your status as a Stern Dorm resident, and make sure the Stern security guard knows about this guy. And for heaven's sake, don't go sitting on any more public benches at 1 AM! I hate to say this, but it's possible that the man in question may originally have assumed that you were, to put it as delicately as possible, there to do "business," and/or, since you were singing alone in public at 1 AM, as drunk as he was. *Please* be more careful about what appearance you present in public--as you've just learned the hard way, giving the wrong impression can be deleterious to your personal safety.

family friend said...

Chana,you may want to call your parents about this,especially your mother. I believe this will disturb them greatly.

Chana said...

Okay, a couple things:

A) I do not look like, nor was I wearing anything of the sort that one providing services of that type wears (unless oversized sweatshirts and blue Ugg slippers count.)

B) So he knows where I live; it's okay- I know where he works. "Third and Long," the bar which is located, oh, right near me. The Irish Catholic bartender will probably not scare me ever again. Hurrah.

Anonymous said...

Are the slichot said at night in the AM, with a minyan of men?
Joel Rich

a said...

"Lord, what fools these mortals be! "
~William Shakespeare

OK,don't EVER do this again! And I don't care if you are down,need fresh air and such. Use those lovely brains of yours and find a different,more suitable outlet for thinking and relaxation.

dustfinger said...

omg, Chana.
that was not cool.

Stern student said...

If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.
-- Winnie the Pooh

the apple said...

Seriously - really careless of you.

Anonymous said...

Well, not really a “potential” rapist because if he had any intention of raping you, he would have tried.

frumskeptic said...

oh man..i woulda had a nervous breakdown!

Good job not having one~!

Moshe Y. Gluck said...

Everyone else said everything but this: What a wonderful piece of writing!!!

canadian princess said...

honey, u manage to repel ppl every day of ur life, and the time it actually matters, you can't do it. honestly.
u should tell security. they are ur friend. ppl told security about homeless guys grabbing their ass and i think a bartender following u home qualifies. just watch, he'll wanna apologize.

Scraps said...

Sigh...I'd lecture you, except you've heard enough lecturing, and I doubt it's going to make you change your wandering ways (has it ever before?). Not to mention, while I've never gotten into a conversation with a drunk guy at some ungodly hour of the night, I've done plenty of stupid things in my day so I'm not really one to talk.

Just stay safe, Chana.

Anonymous said...

I had a very similar encounter at a bus stop at night in Yerushalayim when I was a sem girl, over thirty years ago. The guy was good-looking, well-dressed, made polite conversation and turned out to be an Arab. I was so naive. My Hebrew wasn't good enough for me to realize that he had an accent, until he told me. Suddenly he's groping and suddenly there isn't a soul around. I said to myself, "I am going to die right here and right now but he is not going to take me anywhere." And I ran faster than I've ever run, and screamed at the top of my lungs. B'H the guy took off. Of course I was not halachically required to give up my life, I was a single girl, but there was some level at which I knew, my life is over if this guy gets his way. I had some kind of post-traumatic stress for months after this incident, spooked at everything. It was the most frightening thing that ever happened to me, even though, actually, /nothing/ happened to me. B'H you were OK and your instincts guided you to safety. I learned back then that no place is safe for a young girl alone at night. Normally I never post comments anonymously but this time I am going to, because even after all these years I still feel a bit ashamed that I was so naive to make small talk with an Arab guy at a bus stop.

Mindy 1 said...

This sounds like somethng that I would get myself into. (see time spent on subways, if I ever write about that)

I think you behaved very well, Chana. Who knows how much you impacted him???

Mindy 1 said...

Uh, but now that I read the comments:

Yeah, that wasn't safe, Chana. Don't do that again. :) (uh.... Did I just say that? I second Scraps on this one entirely)