Notes from my phone February 7, 2020
I’d maintained my composure and kept my cool during the entire brief, but terrifying, experience. But as soon as I stepped into my apartment and the door closed behind me all composure was lost and hyperventilation set in.
WHAT THE F*CK JUST HAPPENED?!
I grappled with posting this, because I know that so many people fear traveling abroad or traveling solo because of their concern for safety. Posting this is like a big ol, “See! I told you. Traveling is not safe, so I’ma just sit right here and be content.”
But, that would be a disservice to all of you. No, travel is not all sunshine and butterflies, but do it anyway.
Here’s What Happened…
I’d just left a late dinner with friends. It was after midnight when we parted ways. I only lived 10 minutes away, so I decided to walk. As soon as I struck off walking, the actual time of night dawned on me. It’s well after midnight! Too late for me to be walking alone at night. Crap! But I’ve already started walking and it’s only 10 minutes away.
I then became aware of the little green, spaghetti strap, dress I had on. Not a sexy dress, more so dainty, but it shows a lot of skin. As I’m power walking down the sidewalk, listening to the clickity clack of my flip flops, I regret breaking my own rule – never wear shoes at night (when you’re out walking) that you can’t run in.
Everything told me I should stop and just call an Uber.
“But, it’s just 10 minutes away”, I tell myself. Plus, the streets are still somewhat lively, as that’s when Merida comes alive. I ignore my gut and trudge on.
I get to the square, that’s just 1 block from my apartment. People are still out eating and there’s a night market happening, though most vendors have packed up and left for the night. As I’m walking, there’s a man walking towards me carrying a cooler…likely just another guy selling random stuff on the street. But he had crazed look on his face. He looks unstable. I feel his eyes on me as I cut across the market. I pick up my pace.
I peek back and he’s behind me in the distance. I hear little cat calls. Nothing new…I get them all the time and ignore them. But this guy was relentless. He’s getting closer, despite me walking faster. There’s a food cart on the corner, just before I get to the street that I need to cross. There’s 2 guys packing up for the night. I gave them a polite nod and smile so that they acknowledge me. I needed them to see me in case anything happened.
I quickly dart across the street right before the oncoming traffic to try to lose the guy with the cooler. I get across the street and look back and he somehow made it across the street as well. Crap. I decide to go right instead of going straight towards my apartment. He says something to me. I turn around and he’s quickly approaching me. I dodge him and start running back towards the market.
At the same time, the two guys at the food cart are yelling and running towards the guy. They tussle for a split second and they chase the guy with the cooler down the street (the same street my apartment is on). I think the guy tried to come back and they chased him off again.
I am shook! Wtf just happened? The two men tried to explain what they saw, but I couldn’t fully understand. Based on their gestures and my limited Spanish, I’m not sure if they were trying to say he was trying to steal my purse or harm me with a knife. Maybe both. Idk. Either way, I am so thankful for these 2 men. Two complete strangers who could’ve easily just minded their business, but they didn’t. They protected me when my judgement failed me. And for that, I am thankful.
I was too afraid, though I didn’t really show it, to walk the 1 block to my apartment, so they waited with me while I called an Uber. They stayed close by my side and saw me off once my Uber arrived. My driver probably thought I was nuts, taking an Uber just one block, but whatever.
I got home and the composure I kept on the street quickly dissipated as soon as I walked through the door. I have no doubt that I could have outran this man, barefoot and all. He was an older guy, but the thoughts that kept ruminating through my mind is “What if?”
What if there is another victim? What if the next woman is not as fortunate enough to escape him? What if the next woman is not as in tune with her surroundings? What if there is no one to come to the rescue of the next woman? What if? That is what I was afraid of most. What if this happens to someone else? The thought was gut-wrenching.
The next day, I purchased pepper spray that I keep on me at all times. I don’t walk home alone at night, no matter how close I am. I always call an Uber. That experience has definitely made me even more cognizant of my surroundings and the people around me when I’m out and about. But, what it hasn’t done is deter me from continuing to live life, continuing to take leisurely strolls, continuing to love Mérida for the beautiful city that it is, filled with some pretty incredible people. That one instance does not define my experience in Mérida. That one bad apple that I encountered, does not spoil the bunch.