I don't know when I put two and two together but I can now understand this fear and anger I get when I walk down the sidewalk.
When I was 22 or 23 years old, I was in Colima, Mexico. It's a smallish city, very nice. It's the state capital and has an active volcano, which was a trip. Smoke came out of it and there were earthquakes and everything. I was studying Spanish there.
I was walking down the street with a Canadian friend and her mom who had come to visit. We were drawing a lot of attention because I don't think Colima gets a lot of foreign visitors and we were all very blonde ladies walking together. A car pulled up and the passenger said something about tortillas and made a slapping motion with his hands...the sign for lesbians. We younger girls who had been there a while were like "nope" and tried to ignore them, but her mom didn't understand why we were being "so rude" when the guys were obviously just trying to talk to us about tortillas. It sounds funny now but we were soooo embarrassed at the time.
Anyway that's not the story, I just remembered that happened, and it helps give you an idea what kind of attitude some Mexican men seem to have towards foreign women. I just remembered another horrible thing involving hitch hiking ... that story's for another day I think.
What I want to talk about today happened on the same walk. We were going side by side down the sidewalk, I was on the side closest to the houses (no front yards, just housefronts on the sidewalk), my friend was in the middle and her mom was at the other end.
We were just doing whatever and suddenly this man, who had been casually leaning up against his doorframe as we walked past seriously jumped out, thrust his arm up the front of my skirt and tried to...who knows what really because the next thing I knew I was chasing him down the sidewalk screaming at him in English. He ran like such a coward you guys, because I was about to kill a motherfucker.
I didn't even realize I had kicked my stupid platform sandals off until I was halfway down the block. My friend and her mom didn't really see what happened, they were yelling at me to come back. So I went back.
Nothing really happened but ... something happened. I'm pretty sure I blew it off as a 'wasn't that weird?' thing, and forgot about it. Whatever happens in Mexico stays in Mexico. Whatever.
That is until years and years later, now, one day I questioned out loud why I get so scared of men standing in doorways as I walk past. Why am I certain they're up to no good. Even if they're just smoking outside a restaurant, or they're very old with a walker and are just taking a break. Or if they're panhandling, busking, enjoying the sunshine...it doesn't matter. They are going to get me. Sometimes I'll straight up start a panic attack if I see a particularly shadowy gentleman in the direction I want to walk.
And just saying these things out loud made it all click. It made sense. It's like a form of PTSD maybe. All the helpless and angry feelings come back every time. And suddenly I can't breathe right.
Even though I know that the chances of something like that happening again are very very small, and even though I know why I'm having the feelings I'm having, because of that assault what ... Seven? Eight? years ago, I still have this terror. And I can't imagine living through something worse. Because really nothing happened. Well something happened but it was nothing.