Something happened tonight. It wasn’t much, but it was something I hope never happens again. Something that should never happen. But it does. More than some people would like to admit. And unfortunately, too few people care to react (in my city anyway).
It was as if my entire body had gone silent. My ears heard but didn’t listen, my body was unusually still, and the whirlwind of thoughts in my mind had died and only a few thoughts were circling my mind like lost elephants.
I was waiting for the tram, luckily it came quite fast (at 11:35pm) and I sat in a corner and stared out of the window. I could feel a tear taking its time to trickle down my face.
Then I heard a man behind me, he was speaking loudly, making a lot of noise. It sounded like he was speaking to an audience that none of us could see. It felt as if the world shouldn’t be able to hear him. I was afraid that he might be talking to me. But then I was so wrapped up in my silent bubble that he couldn’t reach me. Then I realised he wasn’t talking to me, he was saying things like “Look at that female, keeping her territory, she’s on her phone, females often do that, going on their phones, it makes them feel safer…”. I started to listen, I didn’t like what he was saying but I wasn’t sure who he was talking to, or about, until I heard him say “get out, get out of the tram!” And at the next stop a girl came out, phone in hand, and he said “See, it works, because she knows she’s weak in the end.”. The I saw his window reflection get up and I saw him pass me and sit next to a girl, then try to look at what she was doing on her phone and I decided to stop looking out of the window and concentrate on what was happening in front of me. She tried to hide her phone from his view because he was bothering her and she turned her head and they made eye contact. I know that if you ever want to ignore someone, the last thing you should ever do is make eye contact because that means that they know you’ve noticed them. Then he started saying things like “Hey you’re really pretty…”, nothing really mean or insulting but I was afraid for her. He saw me staring at him and asked me if I knew her, I answered the truth without thinking (as I usually do which is both one of my best characteristics and rather inconvenient in a few cases): I shook my head, I didn’t know her. Then he asked if I was texting her her and I shook my head again. He said “Oh good, I’m reassured”, that sentence sent shivers down my back. One woman sitting not to far away stared at me disapprovingly (I think) but I didn’t know what I should’ve done. Maybe next time I should go towards the girl as if I know her to push him away? But with all the silence in me I didn’t even know if I would’ve been able to speak. If it went any further I would force myself to get up and try to help but at that point I didn’t know what to do.
The girl ended up getting up and leaving at the next stop (along with a bunch of people) and then the man sat down in the middle with no-one around him so I went back to my window. I always kept an eye on him though.
He must’ve known not to come to me then. He must’ve seen that at that point nothing could reach me. I would only stare out of my window. He may have tried to make eye contact, but I was fervently avoiding that so I don’t know. I wasn’t on my phone. I don’t need to stare at it to feel safe. Maybe that kept him away. I don’t know.
The tram was coming to the end of the line and he was still there so I made sure to come out a while behind him and I saw him cross over to the other side of where I was going. I was walking to the RER (a sort of train that tends to stay in and around Paris) station and I saw him turn around to check where I was going. He looked right at me. But I figured it should be ok, he was on the other side. Until I saw him crossing the street. Then I started walking faster, I cut a corner and ran down the few steps between the cut corner and the pavement and as I got closer to the station I figured if I went fast enough I might just lose him. I could hear him calling after me but I couldn’t hear what he was saying, I’m pretty sure he said something like “Hey … are you a policewoman?” (and I was surprised he thought I was old enough to be one). He said other things I didn’t catch. When I got into the station I saw that my train was coming 3 minutes later and I prayed that the strange man wouldn’t follow me. I had to get to the other side of the tracks and I ran down the stairs and across the corridor. The train was coming in two minutes. Then I saw a man. Just a normal man, going up the stairs. I was going to try the escalator when I saw the red light and he turned around to tell me it didn’t work. Then he said a little sport was nice, with a smile. He felt kind and I felt so relieved. I was no longer alone. Which made me much safer already. As we walked towards where the train would stop the train was marked “à l’approche” (coming), and as I turned around (still walking but backwards) I could see the train coming and there was no sign of the first man. The second man, the kind one, probably doesn’t feel like he did anything at all, but he really reassured me and it almost feels like he saved my life.
I stayed alert and without music the whole rest of the journey home but nothing else happened.
I don’t know if I reacted well, I don’t know how I should have reacted. I can only say what happened. I’m asking for help, you who are so good at becoming other people and understanding things in ways few people can, what should I have done? And if it ever happens again, what should I do? I hope it never does but seeing the time I come home it’s bound to happen again sooner or later.