Once we dispensed with the usual catch-up-on-bullshit pleasantries, we had spent the evening talking about her problems with a potential stalker. Ample warning signs and an unfortunate depth of first-hand experience had triggered Becky’s creep-dar when this coworker-of-a-friend had repeatedly contacted her. He even texted her while she told me about him (it could have been an innocent, mid-Thursday evening, “How’s ya week goin’?” but in context it only served as another stalker data point.) Discomfited, she wasn’t certain how best to proceed.
“Cut ties. Be cordial but firm. Don’t give him a reason to be upset but also don’t leave the door open for any further polite interaction.” It’s super awesome being a font of sage wisdom when you don’t have to actually be the one executing the plan.
Late that night, going back to my car after walking Becky to the front door (not in an attempt to act the role of the chivalrous friend; by that point, we shared the unspoken fear that this marketing department fuck was lurking in the apartment’s hedge), I walked past a woman hunched over a pile of cases. She was bundled up for the fall chill, her long knit scarf tumbling onto her attempts to lug the guitar, amp, suitcase and purse to her building’s garage.
I almost reached the corner before my conscience tugged too hard. “Need a hand with the door?”
“Uh, well — sure!” She half-giggled with a nervous edge. No one really likes realizing they look like they need help.
I met her at the door, which fell under the shadows caused by the over-hanging palms boxing out the brittle orange streetlight. She looked at me for a second, waiting.
“Do you have a key?” I asked.
“You don’t live here?” Nerves were strongly evident, though any trace of giggle had disappeared.
It should have been easy to say I had just dropped my friend off next door and was walking by. I didn’t want to consider the way Becky’s hands kept shaking without her realizing it, or the deep history of every asshole guy and fearful girl I’ve known, or the level of shittiness these thoughts cast on the gender dynamics of the situation. As she dug into her purse to find her keys, careful to never turn her back on me completely, I stepped away from the door, backing into the light to show that I wasn’t trying to hide. Of course I wanted to reassure her of my good-faith motives, but how could I stop her from being uncomfortable? How could I hold the door open in such a way as to let her know that I understood why she’s feeling uncomfortable? How could I will it so me handing her that guitar through the door as she inched away made up for terrible things done in these shadows?