He had no idea how much danger he was in.

Patrik Nygren/Flickr
Patrik Nygren/Flickr


He said, “I need your phone number.” He said it in an intense, disembodied whisper. He was young and tall. He must have walked into the little makeup store right behind me, for I had just arrived, and when I turned he was inches from me. No telling how far I’d been followed.

Earlier, a man had followed me to the entrance of a frozen yogurt shop and waited at the door, peering in as I chose toppings and made my purchase. Still earlier—the same day—another man had followed me down 6th Avenue and into a Bed, Bath & Beyond. He appeared at the end of every aisle I passed, no matter where I wandered in that capacious store.

Welcome to our world, I hear a chorus of a million of New York women saying—women out on their lunch breaks, shopping or running errands, suddenly having to commence evasive maneuvers because a male has decided to stalk them. Such men are now a part of my life.

In Brooklyn last winter, a Dodge Challenger with tinted windows slow-rolled past me for a second time. It pulled to the curb, and just as I walked past I heard a door slam. It was late at night, nobody was out, and I had three long residential blocks to go before reaching the F Train. I crossed the street, putting some parked cars between us, and gazed over: there he was, shadowing me from the other side. At the next intersection, I stopped and let him cross. He crossed, then noticed I wasn’t crossing, so he crossed back on his side. Then I crossed on my side. Then he cut across the intersection, heading straight for me. When he was at 10 feet I said, “Get the fuck away from me!” He opened his mouth as if to speak, but kept approaching. “Get the fuck away!” I repeated, and he turned and left.

I don’t know if he thought he was pursuing an ordinary woman or not, but unless he had a gun, he had no idea how much danger he was in. I’m a lifelong athlete, still freakishly strong, and I protect myself with a sudden ferocity I never had access to as a male. Knowing myself to be dangerous probably separates me from most females. I would sooner avoid situations, or look for a manager at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but if a large display of merchandise should happen to fall onto the head of my stalker, oh well.

I used to hate it when women assumed me to be one of these creeps. Sometimes when I offered help or directions, or just said hello in a bar, a woman backed off so quickly, I sensed that she had had that kind of day. Or maybe she’d had a lifetime of being preyed on by men, the kind of men who stare fishlike at you, having given up all hope of connection, the kind who see women as prizes in the computer games they play for hours in their dark rooms.

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Diana Goetsch (formerly Douglas Goetsch) is a poet and freelance teacher of writing. Her latest book is Nameless Boy.


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