I was … something terrifying … today. Physically I was unharmed. Mentally, emotionally? Time will tell, I suppose.
Today is Thursday, which means 4 or 5 hours at my former full-time, winding down part-time contract job and office after training with J. Everyone was out in the field today, though, so much of my time there I was alone. Which is fine. In nearly 11 years it has never bothered me to be there by myself.
Then there is today. *sigh*
Around 3:30 p.m. I decided to close up shop and take some large boxes out to the dumpster behind the building. This office building is in a warehouse district and our building backs up a greenbelt area along a section of the bike trail and an estuary feed from the river. There is a fence with a locked gate, and in truth I have never given it much thought. My biggest concern has always been watching for the feral cats that roam around back there and periodically startle themselves and then startle me.
Today there were 2 homeless men behind some empty drums we keep behind the building. I did not see them when I walked out to the dumpster but when I turned around to return to the office, they were both there, standing between me and the door to get back into the building and truly the only exit from the dumpster and rear of our building.
One of them had a large knife in his hand and was leering at me. The other was smiling and rubbing his hands together with a big, ugly, toothless smile on his face. I looked around to see if anyone else was around – the 2 buildings we share a parking lot with are both mostly vacant and there were no cars parked in front of the closest one, the next building over is empty, and I did not see anyone or hear any voices in the yard of the pool place next door in my quick, nervous glance. I asked them what they wanted, and the one with the knife said it was raining and the wanted to go inside with me where it was warm and dry. I think, anyway; there was this roaring in my ears that made hearing difficult the words difficult while I was straining to hear the sounds of help from any other direction. When I didn’t move or say anything, they started advancing on me, making catcalling sounding noises and lewd gestures as I weighed my options for running away. Just as I was about to bolt and make a run for it I heard voices speaking Spanish in the pool yard next door. I screamed as loudly as I possibly could, a terror-backed cry for help and scrambled behind the dumpster, still screaming for help at the top of my lungs.
The homeless men tried to come after me and pull me from my place behind the dumpster, but I kicked at their hands and scrambled backwards. The one with the knife actually tried to stab my leg with it, thankfully missing and ripping the leg of my jeans instead. No harm to me at all. The pool guys heard the screaming and came over to the fence to see what the ruckus was about, but there is an iron fence between us. Fortunately their presence and one running down to the gate to come around and the other standing there yelling at the homeless guys in Spanish did the trick, and the homeless men turned away from me and slipped out through the back gate and away at a good clip.
I am completely unharmed physically, but I was (maybe still am) badly shaken. Someone called the police, they came and took a report and looked for the homeless men, who of course by then had disappeared. I sent an email to the local owner explaining what had happened and that I am not sure about returning to the office, like ever.
In reality, the encounter probably lasted less than a minute, but it seemed like a lot longer. I was alone with 2 men, one armed with a knife. During the encounter my life did not flash before my eyes, but I was so scared all I could think was they smelled so foul and I did not want them near me. One of them actually touched my jeans, which now have a rip and must be destroyed. Even without the rip they would have to be destroyed, because the evil man touched them. I am still deciding if the rest of the clothing I was wearing must be destroyed as well or if laundering them is enough.
As soon as I was locked in my building with one of the ladies from the pool showroom and knew the police were on their way, I completely lost my lunch in the bathroom. I know, I know – TMI. Sorry. I am truly rattled and this is how I process, gory vomit details and all.
In the end, I was unharmed and my primary loss was my innocence about how cruel and dangerous the world can be. After 10+ years and many nights working alone after dark in that office, I feel really awful and sick to my stomach imagining different outcomes and trying so very hard to turn my brain off to make it stop. My days of ever being there again alone even in broad daylight are over, assuming I can bring myself to go back at all.
While waiting for the police to arrive to take my statement, I called M and told him what happened. I started to cry when I heard his voice and had to reassure him 3 times I was fine, not physically hurt, merely completely and totally freaked out. He was in the east bay at a running event with friends and he will not be home until tomorrow sometime, although he was going to come home immediately. I convinced him it is not necessary, because I am physically fine and he has been looking forward to this event for months. It was fine; it is fine and I am glad he agreed to stay. I understood and felt better after talking to him. I anticipate a conversation on being more aware of my surroundings sometime when I am much calmer, but that’s okay; I probably deserve it.
I also called a client to reschedule a late afternoon appointment, explaining what had happened. He was alarmed and relieved. We rescheduled for Friday assuming I feel up to it. I will force myself to feel up to it.
When I got home I took a shower and threw the ruined jeans in the trash and the rest of my clothes I was wearing into the wash by themselves. Then I got dressed and went to the gym.
It is a strange reaction, to go to the gym after that type of trauma. I find I crave control – over my emotions, my new-found fear, and my mounting anger over the whole reactionary state I am in. And since I cannot seem to control my emotional state right now, at least I can move my body and its limbs and put them through the range of what they can do. I theorized my hands also cannot shake if they are holding a weight and proved it to myself through a few sets of my dumbbells List. The practice did what it was supposed to do and tired me out, mentally and physically. Obsessing over the minutia of squats and deadlifts and curls was distracting enough to calm my nerves. And I avoided a trip to Baskin Robbins for comfort ice cream. That’s something.
Ours is a safe neighborhood, but I have the alarm set and way too many lights on. Sleep is eluding me, and I am hoping blogging about it mutes some of my emotional backlash.
Did I mention I am completely freaked out? I walk. I talk. I moved weights to and fro. I did not eat ice cream and make myself sick. I talked to M when I got home and to another friend for an hour in the middle of the night where he is because M is running tomorrow and needs to sleep, whereas my other friend is just going to work and flying home. I have laid down and tried to sleep, but every time I close my eyes I see their faces and that knife and smell their awful stench. And it makes me feel ill all over again.
It was a very bad day today.