Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Streets

Last year around this time, the police released a composite sketch of a man who was running around a neighbouring 'hood and hitting women over the head with a hammer. Mercifully, all he did was hit them over the head. Not that this is a particularly merciful act, but it could have been much, much worse. He could have robbed them. He could have sexually assaulted them. He could have even killed them. But no, all he did was hit them with a hammer and run away. Thankfully, all of these women (I believe there were three in total) came away from this dreadful experience with no more than minor injuries.

As did most women around town, I came away from hearing about these experiences with more than a little trepidation. First of all, this was happening on the very streets where I run. Second of all, I run alone. Thirdly, I run in the wee hours of the morning, dark hours in the winter months. And fourthly, I run with earphones, so I can't really hear anyone sneaking up on me, whether they have a hammer or not.

Hubby asked me to stop running. I almost acquiesced, letting my fear get the better of me. But then I got angry. I resented being "held captive" by a clearly not-so-well-in-the-head man with a hammer. So I told hubby that he could come with me if he wanted to, but that I would not stop running.

I did promise to be extra vigilant. I streamed my music through my iPhone speakers rather than through my earphones. I stuck to main, well-lit streets only. And before leaving every morning, I told him exactly which route I would take and did not deviate, so that if something bad did happen, he would be able to trace my exact steps.

And I hoped that they would catch this asshole soon.

But they didn't. And angry as I was, I have to admit that I was afraid, out there on the streets - even the well-lit ones - all by myself. I found myself constantly checking over my shoulder rather than concentrating on my breathing and my form or the icy sidewalks in front of me (which might be the reason I lost my footing and twisted an ankle almost exactly one year ago).  Every time I would spot a man walking towards me in the distance, I would freeze up, hoping it wasn't the hammer guy. I found myself studying every man's face to see if it matched the image of the composite that I kept locked in my mind. My morning run, which had always been my time for self-reflection and for setting my day, turned into a paranoid and thoroughly unenjoyable activity.

All of this went through my mind this morning, one year later, as I was running through the not-so-well-lit side streets of the same neighbourhood with the Beast firmly secured around my waist. It occurred to me that, aside from the unsalted sidewalks of sleepy residential neighbourhoods, I felt safe. Like really, really safe. Passers-by no longer make me freeze up. And I am no longer glancing over my shoulder at every second (except to make sure that a passing car isn't going to clip us).

It's because of the Beast. He is my little bodyguard. And he is a good one at that. When a stumbling drunk man came toward me at a stoplight one day, he freaked right out, barking like mad to get the guy away from me. And when a man came out of a hidden corner of a dark parking lot and suddenly appeared on the sidewalk before us while we were on our early morning run, he began to growl low in this throat, as though to warn the guy to stay away from us. There are certain situations that cause his Beast-sense to tingle, and he kicks into "keep her safe" mode.

While I feel slightly bad for the two men who were caught off guard by the Beast's somewhat unfair accusation that they were out to do harm, I am also relieved to know that he has my back. I'm not so naive as to think that nothing bad will ever happen to me as long as the Beast is with me. But I do feel that I don't have to be afraid to be out there on my own anymore.

Thanks Beasty, for helping me take back the streets of my city. You're the best!