Think Alive

They say it’s better to be safe than sorry, and better paranoid than dead.

My mama raised me right, ’cause I’m a paranoid girl. Maybe it has something to do with witnessing my mom’s purse being snatched from her hands while we walked one block to the grocery store when I was four or five. She had me by one hand and her purse in the other, and in broad daylight a man looked her in the eye, wished her a good afternoon, then took off running with her bag.

With me at her side, the purse was a goner…until a Good Samaritan with his arm in a cast saw a man with a purse running towards him. He knew the picture made no sense, so he clocked him. The purse snatcher went down, the cast split open and the hysterical woman with the kid got her purse back.

Not everyone is as lucky.

My paranoia comes from years of living in Anaheim — not that it’s a bad place, but it’s seen its share of issues. Still does.

My paranoia comes from being followed numerous times across a dark, vast campus in Michigan after turning down a football player’s advances. He seemed to know where I’d be any day of the week — but the intimidation only came at night: to and from class, to and from the student parking lot a half-mile away, two and from the CommArts building I’d grade papers in. It ended when he and a couple other seniors graduated.

My paranoia comes from being told that I reported a friend’s dad as having tried to enter the bathroom while I was having a kindergarten play date one weekend at her house. That was the last time I was allowed to spend time outside of school with that friend.

My paranoia comes from the news, from movies, from others’ experiences.

So whenever I see a young girl walking alone on a dark night, I cringe. Doesn’t she know better? Has she no fear? Why is she inviting bad?

When I saw young woman sitting at a bus stop tonight, rifling through her purse with stuff spread all over the bench, I wanted to have a word with her.

Look alert. Pay attention. Rifle through your belongings inside a well-lit bus, not on a dark bench. Try to appear like you have your wits about you, because — frankly — you look like a fantastic target.

Last night I opened the door to call the cat inside and heard heavy footsteps crunching on the bone-dry grass mere feet away, just behind a five-foot block wall. It was late, and my neighbor’s house was dark. His backyard from where the crunching came from was also dark. My back porch light was off, because I took my Christmas lights down earlier in the day and hadn’t replaced the bulb in the light fixture yet. When I called for the cat, the crunching stopped. I closed the door immediately, no longer concerned about the cat. He’d find his way. I flipped on a table lamp switch that I was frozen next to and couldn’t move. Once I did, I looked outside and saw a dark form making its way quickly down the street behind the house. Not a coincidence.

I’ve not slept well for a week because of my cold, but I slept especially poorly after that. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tonight I am thankful for the wits about me, for the gut feelings I’ll always listen to, and for preferring to be safe rather than sorry. It’s not enough to look alive, we need to think it, too.

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