I was raised on America’s Most Wanted and Law & Order. So I approach all life situations carefully considering the odds of my getting kidnapped, raped, and/or murdered to an arguably (and admittedly) irrational degree. I don’t mind telling you that I am scared of the country. Even the suburbs creep me out a little bit. The suburbs are so quiet and dark and still, it’s terrifying. I live in downtown Philadelphia, with an alley on either side of my building and homeless men twitching and talking to themselves on every corner. Yet, I feel safe in the city. In the city, if you get murdered, it’s probably a random act of violence. But there are people around, witnesses. In the country, the woods, that’s where the crazies are, the methodical serial killers. Like in “Deliverance” or “The Hills Have Eyes.” The kinds of dudes who will turn you into a lamp shade when they are done slowly torturing you to death. At least in the city, someone will hear you scream.
One summer break, I had a job cleaning offices in the evening. It was the kind of job with no definitive end time. You were done when you were done. I didn’t have a car of my own, so I was dependent on my mom for rides. In the days before cell phones, I had to call my mom from the pay phone to let her know I was done. But true to scatter-brained form, I almost never had a quarter. So, being the problem solver that I am, I came up with a brilliant strategy: I would call our house collect and, when it came time to state my name, I would yell, “It’s me, come get me!” and hang up. This particular evening, I realized the flaw in my genius idea: my sister who answered the phone didn’t get the opportunity to say, “Mom’s not here,” before I hung up the phone. After waiting more than an hour and after the office building was locked for the night, I figured I needed to make a move. In my infinite wisdom, I figured I should just walk home. Three miles. Alone. Down a long, rural road. At dusk. The bright ideas kept on coming. Remembering that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, I decided to cut through the field across from the office. Alone. At dusk.
I walked/stumbled through the tall grass (only now do I think about all the Lyme Disease in that field). I got through that line of trees only to see that there was so much more field on the other side. And a deer. A big deer with big antlers. I stopped dead in my tracks, my mind racing through all of my useless knowledge, hoping to recall some tips on what to do if you encounter a deer. Best I could come up with was what to do if you encounter by a stranger in a parking lot. So, I just stood there, frozen in place until he decided he that he wasn’t going to impale me with his antlers and walked away. I ran/stumbled through the grass double time and by the grace of God, made it to the road.
This was maybe not my best idea. I was terrified, if I’m being honest. It was a long country road with no street lights. A handful of houses littered down one side of the road, the endless field I just left on the other. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I kidnap-able I was under the circumstances. So I ran. And I never run. It’s hard and unpleasant, so I prefer to save it for emergencies. As a general rule, I only run when chased. I walked/ran/jogged/wogged (an ungraceful combo of walking and jogging), all the while keeping an ear out for cars coming up from behind. Because a serial killer will come at you from behind. Every time I heard a car coming, I would start walking up towards the closest house. My thinking was that I could fool the would-be attacker that he was too late; I just got home.
I did that dance for about a mile until I came to a stretch of road where there were no more houses, only field on either side. So with everything I had left, I hauled ass. Ran as fast as I could to get to the safety of the next batch of houses. With every car that approached, I thought my heart would explode from the combination of cardio and terror. It was sweet relief to the see a car pass me by and keep on going. Clearly, no they had no interest in murdering me. Then I heard a car approaching from behind and I heard it slow down. Oh, no. Oh, Jesus. The car passed me, but then pulled over a few yards ahead of me. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. This is it. Ok. Where are my keys? I need to hold them between my fingers for a weapon. What did they say, go for the eyes first? Or the testicles? Dammit, why can I never remember…
Oh, wait. That’s Mom’s car.
I ran up and got into the car without saying a word, breathless and relieved.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I panted something about walking home, she stared at me for a moment, shook her head and got back on the road. Later that night, I overheard her on the phone with one of our relatives in Long Island:
“…and I turned down Bailey Road and I saw this woman running down the side of the road like a maniac. She looked like a crazy person. And I thought to myself, ‘That woman looks like Raina’. But when I got closer I realized, it WAS Raina…”
Needless to say, I didn’t think that one through. Story of my life. That will be on my tombstone: Here lies Raina. She didn’t think it through.
And she was scared of the suburbs.