“Yeah… we had fun,” I said
“Good. Did you fix your boots yet?” Mom asked. I had called her on my walk home from the subway.
“No, mother. I’m poor.”
“You’re not that poor!”
“First – yes I am. I hate getting paid every two weeks! And second – ” I swiveled around and glanced up and down the block. I had reached one of my safety “check points.” Two people behind me, one to the right. No one on my heels.
Check point one: PASS.
“ – and secondly, I don’t even know where to go to fix those boots. Everyone in Astoria’s “gotta a guy.” I gotta bagel guy, but that’s about it.”
“Oooh maa gosh… Britney! Fix those boots.”
“I will mother.” I said, glancing around one last time before heading down my street. A few feet behind me, an Unknown had snuck up. He walked quietly and held a briefcase. But he was too close… and why hadn’t I seen him before?
Check point two: FAIL.
I wish I could tell you there was a method to my madness, and that I knew the Unknown was going to be problem because of facts A, B, and C, but the truth is I always go with my gut. And the gut said stop walking.
So before turning down my street, I veered to the left and leaned against the wall of a large apartment building.
“Can you believe how much we spent on those boots?” I asked my mother, who was happily prattling on the phone. I wanted to look busy even if I was acutely aware of the Unknown. Trying to run home would only lead something sketchy to my doorstep. And if any funny business happened, big apartment buildings almost always have cameras. This was an ideal spot.
Did I mention my gut had specifically said stop walking? I was listening.
“Oh I know!” Mom said. “And to think…” but I didn’t hear the rest of what she was saying. The 40-something year old man with a briefcase was passing by me… and then he stopped.
A chill went from the tips of my fingers to my feet.
He was looking at me, but just barely. It’s difficult to explain, but the Unknown appeared to be staring right through me, like I was an apparition he’d accidently spotted but could no longer see. There was no expression on his face, which was about three feet from my own.
So I did what any gal would do after 30 seconds of awkwardness.
“Shoo! SHHHHOO!!” I said, flicking my free hand at him like he was an unwanted fly in summertime. He blinked repeatedly, and stepped away from me, suddenly coherent after his trance-like state.
“Britney who are you talking to…”
The man began to walk away.
“Shush Mother. I’m kinda… having… a moment,” I said through gritted teeth. I needed a weapon. Where were my keys? Purses are always ridiculously messy at the wrong moment. With one hand on the phone and another in my bag, I watched as the man turned to face me again, this time about 10 feet away.
“Well! Well wait, what’s happening.”
“Tell ya in a sec. Just keep talking.”
"Okay hum… so I think that…” she continued, as I stopped digging in my purse. The Unknown was oddly standing in the middle of road, facing me again.
“What do YOU WANT!?” I screamed at him. He backed away, not taking his eyes off me now. It was only 10pm and there was a family walking down an adjacent street. This was such odd behavior; I couldn’t categorize it. And I was hungry…. Really hungry. This freak was the only thing between me, and my baked potato.
“Brit what’s happening?”
“Mom… shh. Someone followed me. Now I’m annoyed 'cause I’m starving. But I can’t go home 'cause he’ll see where I live. Stay on phone.”
“Oh maa gosh... uh, yeah. I'm not going anywhere,” the sassy Southern accent came ringing through the telephone.
Unknown was now across the street. I stood directly on the other side, staring at him and debating my options.
He set his briefcase down.
I pulled my bag closer.
He began to dig in his coat pocket.
I began digging in my purse. And then a thought struck me – I had a knife! HA!
“What are you doing now?” Mom asked, almost whispering.
“Looking for my knife.”
“What!? You have a knife??
“Ha. Yeah. Ironically enough, I found it last night.” It had been resting, blade open, in the hall closet of my apartment. And now I had the heavy object in my hand. The weapon was probably a relic from my old roommate, but she wouldn’t mind me carrying it around for a bit.
“Well…” my mother said, “I don’t know if I’m more nervous for you – or for that man!” she continued with a little laugh. I couldn’t help but chuckle at her confident one-liner.
Guys, it wasn’t graceful, but it worked. With one hand holding a phone I could barely open the old blade. Suddenly it popped into place. Striking a pose similar to Peter pan, I raised the knife in the air. The street light overhead made the metal gleam.
What they don’t tell you in the movies is what to do next. I didn’t really want to use the knife. So I waved the blade back and forth through the air, in a “just-try-to mess-with-me-because-I-might-West-Side-Story-dance-my-way-out-of-this-situation” kind of way.
This method worked surprisingly well. The Unknown DID NOT like my knife. He pivoted around so quickly; I couldn’t help but think maybe he wanted to dance/rumble too. But still he searched for something in his coat pocket. This is the moment when my gut began speaking to me again: it said run.
I clumsily closed the knife, slicing my finger in the process (nube mistake), and tossed it in my pocket. The gut and I both knew if Unknown were reaching for a gun, my knife would be no match. While he was still turned away from me, I ran down the street, protected from his view by two large moving trucks. Now even if he were looking for me, it would be very difficult to see my exact whereabouts. I peered between the vehicles, and saw the man quickly grab his briefcase and take off down the road. I couldn’t see much but I knew he wasn’t coming my way.
West Side Story Peter Pan had scared him! Or at least confused him enough to make an escape.
“Yes?!?” She said.
“Hey, I’m home.”
(Editor’s Note: These methods are not conducive to all situations. Readers should not believe they can scare off all Unknowns, but should instead follow their gut. Sometimes even Peter Pan needed help from the Lost Boys. RIP Rufio.)
Menacing litte Peter Pan blade, isn't it?