My car is a sanctuary. I am parked outside my gym, what was my sanctuary for the last year, but a man returned recently and has joined my regular class several times a week. He’s a man I once had over to my house for Arabic coffee and conversation about his service overseas, his partner, her family.
We sat for a little over an hour discovering where our interests intersect. I was delighted to share a cup of my culture with him. He was happy to share his positive memories. It was comfortable.
And then it wasn’t.
When we said goodbye, I walked him to the door and leaned in for a polite hug. My child was running in the hall behind me. I had one hand on the doorknob. I was ushering him out.
His arm came around for a hug and kept moving. Dropped. His hand grazed my ass and squeezed and he moved his fingers up into my crack. This happened as I was in motion. As I shifted forward, the side of my face coming close to the side of his. I felt his hand and saw his mouth trying to land on mine and I shifted, just barely. The kiss landed at the edge of my frown.
I am trained in hosting. I said nothing, simply shifted my body away and held the door between us. He lingered, as if I might change my mind. My child watched. I smiled. It was as false as my voice when I told him we’d get together again.
When I closed the door, I began to cry. The memory is hazy at this point. I know I wondered if my child saw what happened. I contacted my husband to let him know. I questioned myself over and over. Had I given the wrong signals? But we’d spent our time talking about our partners, maintaining our personal love relationships. There was no intimation or invitation. There just wasn’t.
I spoke with my therapist. I spoke with my friends. I cried a lot. Even though it was nowhere close to the first time a man had touched me inappropriately, it was the first time in my home in front of my children.
Through Facebook Messenger I told the man I was not interested. That he must have misunderstood. He said I misunderstood. What I experienced was my misunderstanding. And then he tried to get together with me again. He drove past my house regularly. He contacted me on Messenger. He followed me on Instagram and started commenting on my photos.
I blocked him on Facebook. I blocked him on Messenger. I blocked him on Instagram. I went to therapy. I blocked him from my mind. I even forgot he existed.
But he does exist. In my safe space; the gym where I go to feel strong so I can stand up to men like him. CrossFit gives me the confidence to protect my body, except feeling I need to protect it during class is taking a toll.
I haven’t told this man yet to stay away from me. We have only exchanged words once and contact once. He was in the high-five line and I couldn’t avoid him without saying why.
I shouldn’t have to say why.
So I am in my car waiting in case it turns out he’s signed up for class this morning. My coaches know what happened. It’s a he said, she said situation. I am looking into a restraining order. I am keeping my distance. I am trusting my coaches and the gym manager to deal with this professionally. Yes, we have talked it through.
My ears are screaming at me. Anxiety is rolling through my body in waves. I am alternately numb, cold and tingly. My brain, in its typical stress response, is trying to put me to sleep.
Only once have I missed class because he was here. I walked in, saw him and burst into tears. I didn't want him to see me cry, so I left and spent my energy on yard work. I will not leave because of him again. He’s the one who should leave. He knows what he did. And I’m not the only woman he’s done it to.