Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Purpose of FEAR

Something scary happened to me tonight and I learned a really important lesson from it. So important that I want to share what I learned with you. And every single woman I know. And everyone woman you know. And all your daughters.

I was driving alone on the highway after dark, about two hours from home. There had been a lot of traffic and as we were coming off a bridge, I could see the break lights coming on in the line of cars ahead of me. Suddenly this car from the other lane swerves in front of me, squeezing into the gap that is closing between me and the car ahead of me, and then slams on his breaks. I flashed my lights at him like "Hey, I'm right here. Did you see me? Don't hit me."

I guess that pissed him off. He began driving very aggressively around me. The speed limit was 70 and he would slow and slow and slow (continually hitting his breaks) and if I tried to get around him, he would either swerve in front of me when I changed lanes or tramp down on the accelerator so I couldn't get around him.

This went on for probably 7 or 8, maybe 10 miles. I could not get away from him.

He was directly in front of me. I could read his tags. They were from Texas.

After several minutes I considered calling the State Police and reporting him. But what would they do? Pull him over? Question him? Write him a ticket? Yeah...and then what happens when he catches up with me again? There aren't too many Tennessee tags in the middle of southwest Louisiana. I was afraid he really would run me off the road then.

I was getting panicked and I saw an exit with two, brightly lit truck stops. I swerved onto the exit after he'd already passed it so he wouldn't be able to get off, too. I parked directly in front of the door and went inside to use the bathroom. When I came out, it seemed like every customer in the place might have been him. I was really scared and panicky.

I carefully got back into my car, eyeing every car in the parking lot. I made sure my doors were locked and got back on the highway. Every time I came up on a car with Texas tags I got scared all over again that it might be him.

I thought about that missing UNO student, and how she'd called her boyfriend to tell him she'd had a flat tire and some people stopped to help her. At least her friends and family knew where she had been and which way she was going. If I called Chip and told him what was happening, at least he'd know...something...in case...

My mind was frightened and racing. I couldn't really think straight. It kept taking me to the worst possibility. This is why I don't watch slasher movies. My mind goes there so quickly all by itself.

I called Chip and I started crying on the phone as I released all the fear that I was holding inside. He told me to keep track of the mile markers on the side of the highway and if I came up on him and it started again, call 911.

He told me, this - and this is what I want to tell you: IF YOU FEEL THREATENED, CALL 911. If the aggressive behavior is intentional DO NOT WAIT. What was I waiting for? For him to run me off the road and flip my car in the ditch?

Suddenly I remembered seeing this guy on Oprah like 20 years ago. He worked with rape survivors and he said that nine times out of 10, the survivor told him, "I had this feeling...." I was scared to get in the elevator with him but I did it anyway. He insisted on carrying in my groceries even though I told I didn't need help. Nine times out of 10, the woman felt a warning before she was attacked - and she ignored it. She denied it. She waited for something drastic to happen before she called for help. And by then, it was too late.

I don't know why I didn't call 911 right away. The guy was directly in front of me - I could have told them where he was, his car make and model and his tag number. I felt fear. Someone was intentionally and aggressively harassing me. My brain flashed, "FEAR. THIS IS DANGEROUS. FEAR. FIGHT OR FLIGHT." The answer to that fear is always, ALWAYS to get help.

Our bodies are biologically set up to warn us when we are in danger. This is a very good and convenient thing. It used to keep us from being eaten by woolly mammoths. But over the years, we (especially women) have evolved to meet social norms that tell us not to be rude, or dramatic, and to ignore that feeling.

I will never ignore that feeling again.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Short List


Things you think when your dog wakes you up in a panic at 2 a.m.:
  1. Is the house on fire? I don't hear the smoke alarms. Are the smoke alarms working? We have smoke alarms, don't we? 
  2. Maybe someone is breaking in. Wouldn't she be barking? I don't hear any noises. 
  3. Maybe whatever predator that's made Shelby scared of her own backyard is on the prowl. Maybe it's a panther. Maybe it's in the house. 
  4. Maybe a tornado's coming. They say the animals sense weather changes first. Wouldn't my phone alert be going off? Maybe we should go downstairs. Maybe I'll just turn the TV on and see if there's a weather alert. 
  5. Maybe there's a gas leak. I don't smell anything. Maybe it's radon. We should get a radon detector. Is that still a thing? Maybe radon went away in the 80s. At least I'll go peacefully doing something I love: cuddling with my Shelby. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Country Roads Take Me Home

I had to drive way out in the country today. I was trying to go to Loranger, Louisiana.



Now I know you're probably thinking, "Kalisa, that isn't all that far from where you live." But trust me. It was waaaay out in the country. Way.

Monday, July 1, 2013

At least we got rid of that pesky Voting Rights thing.

I have lived in the American South since I was 11 years old. First Mississippi, then Tennessee, now Louisiana. I've seen racism displayed in all kinds of ways.

In my Mississippi public school (in the 80s), like friended like. (But that was true for a lot of qualifiers - not just race.) The black kids were a small percentage of my school, and they had their own "group." They played on the sports teams, but they weren't cheerleaders. They were never voted Class Favorite. With the rare exception, they didn't sing in our choir. Looking at recent yearbooks from my high school, that seems to have changed a lot in 30 years. It seems 50 years after Brown vs. The Board of Education gave black children access to the same public schools as their white counterparts, full integration has finally occurred.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pain


I lay in a dark room with a migraine
eating away at my brain
and my mind goes to places
I do not own.

There is a black that permeates
my body
my soul.
It is green and rotting and foul
and like a tree's roots
its fingers entangle my joints
my spine
my lady parts.
It is pain.

I need healing hands
to pull it from my being
like a toxin magnet
so the light can get in
and I can be cleansed
and I can be light
and I can be free.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

On the Move

It has occurred to me that I've been complaining on Twitter about moving without actually telling y'all that we're moving.

Relax. We're not leaving here just yet. We love where we are and we love our neighborhood and we love our little house. So you can imagine how disappointed we were to find out we had to leave.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ass.

Every day I drive to work past a donkey. (Burro? Ass?) The first time I saw it, I was riding with a co-worker and I practically screamed, "OMG IS THAT A DONKEY??" and I'm sure he thought this city girl was ridiculous.

The donkey is in a small fenced area, between a car repair shop and a gravel driveway leading to some trailer homes. I'm not sure who he belongs to exactly. In the back of his yard is a tractor parked under a ramshackle roof. Sometimes in the afternoon he stands under there in the shade.