I Keep Walking

I walked by his car today.

It was there, in my neighborhood,
at the top of the hill in front of the church.

Completely unexpected.

There I am
on my way to the rose garden.
Out for a much-needed afternoon walk.

I see the car, the color (a hundred like it in this city),
the front bumper with no license plate (a handful like that in this city).
On the inside, two drinks in the cupholders.
On the back, the license plate that begins with 4KCA . . .

Oh.

Oh.

My feet keep walking as my mind registers that it’s his car.

I should be afraid—
shouldn’t I?

Out of nowhere, the thought: Maybe it’s not his car anymore.

My eyes take in the two men working in the churchyard.

After all, I don’t know it’s his car. He could have sold it.
He could be driving around in heaven-knows-what and I wouldn’t know.

I wouldn’t know! How can I protect myself from what I don’t know?
I don’t want to not know!

My feet keep walking.

Thank goodness he’s not in the car.
What the hell’s it doing there?
What’s he doing there?
Is he in the rose garden?
In one of the shitty apartments across the street, buying drugs?
Did he park all the way up here to go down the hill to the business district?
No, no way. He’d never walk this far if he didn’t have to. He’s too much of a wuss.

I keep walking.

Jeez—what am I going to do on my way back? Am I going to walk past his car again?
I could cross the street,
go a different way.

I sigh. I am so tired of being afraid.

Maybe the car won’t be there when I get back.

Maybe none of this matters because it’s not his car anymore.

If he sold it, I wonder what he’s driving now?

If only I had a friend who was a computer hacker.
We could hack into the DMV records and find out whether he still owns this stupid car.
(Where’s Veronica Mars when you need her?)

I keep walking.

Down the hill, up the hill, into the rose garden.

Is this going to be the day?
The day I run into him?
Damn. I should have cleaned up my makeup before I left the house.
Maybe, if I keep my scarf pulled way up like this,
he won’t even recognize me.

I walk down the steps into the rose garden.
I try to feel my body connected to the earth.
Solidify myself.
I wish I didn’t feel so . . . insubstantial.
I start thinking about dinner.

I look at my hands in their black fleece gloves.
I think, Maybe the gloves will make it easier on my hands if I punch him.
I smile.

I keep walking.

I look at the trees, the bare rose bushes, have an imaginary conversation with a friend.
But my mind always goes back to the car.

As I wind my way along the paths, my eyes check all directions, just in case.
But he’s not there.
Just a woman feeding the wild turkeys, cracking peanut shells between her teeth,
then throwing the nuts to the birds.

I climb the steep hill out of the rose garden.

The car is still there.

I’m on the opposite side of the street and I decide to stay there.
My eyes scan the apartments, the churchyard, the street, looking for danger.

I stare at the car as I pass it. I notice a sticker on the rear bumper.
He wouldn’t put a sticker on his car—
would he?

As I walk, I keep my eyes focused ahead of me,
taking in as much of my surroundings as I can.
I don’t want to be caught by surprise.

Where would he be?

What if he’s renting a room at the church to see clients? (a revolting thought!)
What if he’s dating someone in the neighborhood?
What if . . .

What if it’s not his car anymore?

I keep walking.

Maybe, when I get home, I can drive back up here, park,
and wait to see who comes back to the car.

What am I, a stalker?
No, I reassure myself. It’d just be like a detective on a stakeout.
Yeah, and how long am I going to sit there, in the dark,
waiting for something to happen?
Don’t I have better things to do with my time?

I keep walking.

When I get home, I lock my front door.
I am not going back out.

I do not freak out or burst into tears.
I do not call anyone.
I do not Google him.

Except for a funny feeling in my head
—a slight fogging up—
I am . . . fine.
(Fine
being a relative term.)
I guess that’s progress.

At least I don’t freeze in panic anymore.
I just keep walking.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Kristi!

    I can imagine you ….when keep walking into the beautiful rose garden….
    I admire your openness sharing this walk.What I like the most is that at the end you put him where he belongs….To a memory..Ηe is the unsubstantial ..and you keep walking full of pride ,feelings and beauty…..You keep walking beyond him…towards much more ..substance ,love..,truth..He is not anymore in your way…its free…
    Many years ago I red in a book a sentence I liked..”‘which is the right path to choose?” “the path which has a heart..”
    You chose a garden..of roses..

  2. Kristi, that was absolutely beautiful. I thank you for being able to put my thoughts into words for me… I wish I was able to be this expressive. You have an amazing gift. Isn’t it crazy how we notice little things like the sticker on the back of the car? My therapist calls it hypervigilance. I just know that I need to know everything so I can feel safe… even though in my logical head I know there is really no real danger. Sometimes I obsess about it and start to feel like a hampster on a wheel and I can’t stop Googling, etc. I look forward to the day when I can keep walking!!

  3. Dear Kristi, How difficult it can be to be reminded of our abuser, how it all comes rushing back, and all of the sudden it’s as if we’re back in that state of mind all over again. The feelings of panic and fear can be overwhelming. We just wish the abuser would just disappear. They and their kind are of little or no benefit to mankind, or are they? I am becoming stronger and more respectful and compassionate with myself as a result of Chris A. There are, however, plenty of times I find myself praying very hard that God would please keep him from hurting anyone else, that He would take that predator’s magical power over women, away, so that no one ever gets hurt by him ever again. That’s when I realize I’m praying for myself and the pain and fear I still fight. But if I stay present in my body, I know I am safe, and that he cannot hurt me anymore. I can even stand up for myself better than ever, now! You are getting stronger, too. Look how you stood up for yourself and prosecuted him, don’t forget how far you’ve come, and how you’re learning to trust yourself. The past truly has no power over you, when you live in the present. Keep looking forward as much as you can, and when you slip, love yourself and have compassion on yourself. You are worth it, and you are a worthy individual.

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