Things to Remember

“Don’t fumble your keys” is the second thing they tell you in self-defense training. I’ve taken just under five of them, two while working for a rape crisis center/domestic abuse shelter. 

I don’t know, I just didn’t have them out. 

It is 8 PM. 

I live above a restaurant and across from a store. 

There are 14 people scattered on the street. 

I’m wearing two pairs of pants and a sweaty top-knot. 

And a backpack. 

I don’t know, I do this all the time. 

“I see you, I see where you live,” and it’s louder than necessary. At first I’m not sure this is directed toward me, even though there are no other apartments within shouting distance and the voice sounds like it’s right behind my head. “Now I know where you live baby. I’ll be looking for you.”


I reach for my phone, to take a photo of the license plate, but I don’t. 

I don’t know. 

My friend Jen told me she learned from a college professor that you should always call 911 if you see an accident. No matter what. You might be the 100th person to call, but do it anyway. Chances are, you’ll be the first. The more people there are around, the less likely it is that anyone has called for help. 

Everyone thinks everyone else already called. 

There are 14 people on the street and more inside the restaurant and no one says anything. No one makes any moves to be curious, to stand up. And I still can’t get my goddamn keys out. 

Everyone thinks they’re going to be more on top of things. It’s why people carry mace. No one is on top of things. It’s why you shouldn’t carry mace. 

Kick and scream and make a lot of noise. Tell bystanders that this is a stranger who you do not know. If you feel uncomfortable, get out of the elevator, leave the room, walk the other way, no matter who you offend. 

These are the third, fourth, fifth things they tell you. 

Last week some guy asked me what time it was even though he changed direction to follow me and was holding a phone. I shouted the time at him and walked over to a more crowded street. 

“Why you scared of me sweetheart?” He followed me for two blocks. 

Two weeks ago I pretended to live in a different apartment because a different car whistled at me and did circles around my block. I casually walked into someone else’s building and doubled back a few minutes later. 

I know the rules. 

Tonight, I don’t know. 

It was early. 

I always walk home. 

My keys are in my backpack where I won’t lose them. 

And anyway, nothing really happened, but in case I go missing tomorrow, it was a white car that plays music, and the voice was sort of high-pitched. 

I think they tell you to remember more details than that. 

The first thing they tell you, though, is that it’s never the victim’s fault. People always forget that one.