He started stalking me after my twelfth birthday. Just after my body developed curves and cars started honking at me when I walked down the street. He lurked in every shadow, hid around every corner, crouched poised to strike at any minute. He follows me. I can hear the scuff of his shoes on sidewalks. He waits until my bedroom light goes out. Is he outside my window? In my closest? Behind my shower curtain? He holds his breath, listens for me to fall asleep, so that he can pounce on me at my most vulnerable. I close my eyes but surrendering to sleep is slow. I've heard the stories. A friend woke up in the middle of the night and found a man on top of her, intent to rape and murder her. Another woman, the wife of a friend, was raped and strangled by a maintenance man. He had the keys. He let himself in. He stole her last gasp of life.
The movies air 24/7 on cable, in theaters, in the imaginations of middle class women awake after midnight. Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, Kiss the Girls, The Last House on the Left, Halloween, Captivity--Hollywood loves a good mix of sex and murder. In fact, there's even a genre called torture porn.
Society perpetuates the notoriety of grisly serial killers--Jack the Ripper, the Black Dahlia murderer, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy, The Green River Killer, and the list goes on. The headlines romanticize these deeds with sexy names. Who were the victims? That's incidental to the fascinating story of a psychopath--a man who stops living by the confines of society's mores, a man who takes what he wants when he wants. He is glorified, my stalker.
When I step onto an elevator, I wonder if that's him in the business suit, or hoodie, or polo. He's white, black, brown, yellow, orange, purple, pink--it does not matter. His violence can be found in the shadows, a leer. When I go out after dark, I know that he is somewhere in the rustle of the trees, in the face of a stranger who might soon make me famous. Victim #12. There's more than one way to get your fifteen minutes of fame in America.
I am a girl. I am a femme fatale. That's what I've been taught and shown since I was a girl too frightened to sleep. The darkness makes you prey. And pray. The "weaker sex." The one too innocent, too naive, too ditzy to understand how dangerous the bumps in the night can be.
This why we all sleep with ball bats, mace, weapons even more potent. We learn self-defense and kick boxing. We fight against our fears.
We will not be anyone's entertainment, not in real life.
It's time to stop being afraid of the dark.