I made my way to the local grocery store the other day to pick up some provisions when I was stopped on the street by a man I had seen on quite a few occasions—a freight truck worker who often spends his days packing and unloading not far from my apartment. Whenever I see that big red truck I start to freak out, despite the fact that our interactions have always been purely platonic. There was that one time he gifted me a bracelet, but it was a harmless, peaceful gesture I always told myself.
“Hey, baby girl! I missed you!” he sing-songed over to me. He came closer and wrapped his arms around my frame in a tight bear hug that lasted a few seconds longer than it probably should have. Then he kissed me twice on the cheek.
“I’ve been thinking about you… have you been thinking about me?” I winced but did my best to lighten the mood with a few subtle jokes. Was it hot out here or…
“Why haven’t you stopped by anymore?” I started to feel my palms sweat. How could I get out of here? Tell him I have someplace to be? Maybe I shouldn’t have sauntered over here so casually—maybe if I had picked up the pace, it would appear that I was in a rush. Should I mention my boyfriend for the umpteenth time? Stress the fact that he’s burly, tattooed, and doesn’t take lightly to men making advances on his girlfriend?
I eventually managed to make up some sorry excuse and scurried off. I found a much longer route to get back home. But it got me thinking: when does innocent flirting cross the line? What if it wasn’t daybreak? And if there weren’t other people milling around? Truth of the matter is that nothing happened and it was a completely harmless conversation. But had I given him the wrong idea at some point by smiling back, engaging… being friendly?
I hear about shootings like the one recently in Santa Monica and I wonder what’s become of the world we live in. I was the ugly duckling growing up and I experienced my fair share of teasing and rejection. So desperate was I to fit in as a young child, that I did all I could to be the nicest person I could be. I figured that if my life were cut short, at least I would be remembered for my kindness. Now I have to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t be so friendly and if some people take it the wrong way.
I get upset that movements like #YesAllWomen exist in the first place and that there are those among us who act out in senseless ways as a result of feeling unappreciated and rejected. To what end? Until we’ve all killed each other?
My heart aches for the victims and their families but also for what we have done to our world. Shame on us that we have robbed ourselves of shades of grey–that we now live in a world where friendliness is twisted and that rejection delivers us to the darkest corners. I have no advice and no solutions, but I turn to a woman who has been a teacher to me and one who says it better than I ever could. I leave you with the words of the late, great Maya. May she forever rest in peace.
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”