Self Defense

When did you first feel it? That urge to turn and run away from him and towards the safety you knew would be found anywhere else? It intensified until there was a constant hum coming from nowhere and everywhere saying 'wait a minute...' You tried and failed to quieten it, thinking you were being overly paranoid, as usual. But when has your paranoia ever led you astray? 

He lost something expensive and kept asking you if you took it? You said no and thought nothing of it. You did not take it. He asked you twice more within the same hour and then again, the next day. You said no each time and expressed no annoyance despite his efforts to provoke such. Your conscience was clear. He was now the unjustly paranoid one.  A few days later you saw him with the thing he essentially accused you of stealing. "Hey is that your____?" He said yes, that he found it. And nothing else. You asked no follow up questions.  

This man apologizes for everything, except those things that warrant an apology. "Why do you apologize so much?" you asked one day. "I don't know." 

"Why do you apologize so much?" You asked, another day. "It's just safer that way, just in case of anything I already apologized." Interesting you said, instead of what you really wanted to say, It makes you seem weak. You bite you tongue. You wondered silently...  

One day he stacked several boxes atop a cart to take to storage. In the elevator, you put your tennis bag atop the pile. The elevator started its descent. You noticed your bag unzipped. You reached over and with both hands closed the zipper. Like someone witnessing a crime he sprung to action and as your hands moved away his reached out. Glaring at you, then at the bag he lunged towards it and purposely unzipped it and pulling the two zippers apart to expose its contents. Your private belongings, your dirty laundry, literally. 'What on earth!' You wondered, silently. You left foot stepping back. Taken aback. His apart exposed what you were trying to conceal. Realizing it was just your dirty clothes and a roll of TP his shoulders slumped in defeat as he re-zipped without a word.  A surge of disgust rose up in you but with both hands you pressed it back down and turned to look looked at the number panel. Say something! You told yourself. But you didn't listen. Once two years ago you dated a French man who treated you like a lady, or one would say princess but you don't like that term. Once you asked him to get your phone charger from your bag. He got up, went away, then came back with your bag "I am sorry, I cannot look in a lady's bag."  

Every Friday after work you play you refresh google maps refreshing it every fifteen minutes to see what the traffic looks like.  When it gets to at least 1 hr 20 minutes you can leave. Friday nights drives are risky. There is always at least one impatient soul who crashes and causes a 40-minute delay for everyone. You watch and wait. You do laundry. You wash and detangle your hair. If you feel like it, paint your nails. 

 Twenty four weekends go by.  

Can you come over this weekend?  

The drive is so long.  

Excuse me?  

Sorry. I'm sorry I said that. 

Tonight, you are going to collect your things. You arrive in the garage as planned at 11pm and wait. 7 minutes pass and then three more. You realize he isn't coming down to let you in so you must walk through the alley and around the block. It is cold. Just like any other city, once the sun goes down, all the sketchy characters appear as if out of thin air, in their cardboard homes, with clear plastic syringes at their feet. They shout at you and tell you things you decide not to hear. Your right hand in your jacket pocket grasps the small black cylinder. You are ready for anything, you think. 

You make it into the lobby without incident then ascend past the 13th floor. You ring the doorbell once, knock four times then turn the key and push the door forward. The lights are on, the bathroom door is open, the fan is running. You push the door shut behind you and rest your bag on the floor. He steps out of the bathroom, unbothered, expectant.  

"I was waiting for you in the garage. Why didn't you come down?" There is no hint of annoyance or disgust in your voice. You know how to hide your true feelings. 

"I figured you would have texted me".  

The garage is underground.  

Realizing there's no point to any of this you affirm "We said 11 o'clock" then leave it at that. He says nothing. You untie your left shoelace and swallow something hollow. You untie your right shoe lace then reach for your bag. Before you can unzip it a man's voice says "Do you want a taser?"  

He holds a black rectangle with two silver prongs at the end. Was he was holding it all along? The answer to this question is irrelevant. Your thoughts race. Taser.police.weapon.police.danger.weapon.   

You stand up extra straight, and with as much indifference you can muster reply "Um.. no thanks... Isn't it illegal?"  

With your right elbow you feel your jacket's side pocket and confirm the presence of that four-inch tall black cylinder with the red paint chipping off.  He gave it to on the third date - "For self defense, you know, when you ride your bike at night." 

"It's not illegal." He says this a bit too firmly for your liking, but before you can decide you don't like his tone at all there's a crackling sound like a piece of aluminum foil being crumpled and the sound amplified. Silver and red sparks fly. The noise grows louder. He stares at the dancing sparks, transfixed. He is grinning. You look at him then at the sparks. You stand even straighter and your mouth collects at the left side the way it always does when you're trying to decide what to do next. Putting your right hand in your right pocket you curl your hands around the barrel and use your thumb to push the plastic rib to the right.