Years and years ago, I lived near Santa Cruz. One day, I was waiting for my friends. And I encountered some truly horrible people.
It was a husband and a wife, or so they said. I have no reason to trust anything at all that they said.
They approached me and started talking. I don’t remember all of what they said. I know they kept talking about sex. They kept touching me. I kept trying to keep them from touching me. They felt wrong, like a dark cloud was all over them. The man said horrible things at the expense of the woman.
Then they noticed that I was stemming on a koosh ball. (I’ve unfortunately lost it, and it was a kind that isn’t made anymore and I can’t find anywhere. If anyone knows where to find a “so-soft koosh ball” I’d be really interested. They have thinner pieces and are therefore softer. Mine was purple.)
The man told me that he had a koosh ball just like mine, in his car nearby. He told me that if I came to the car with him, I could see it. I declined.
They started getting pushier about trying to get me to go to the car with them.
I told them I was waiting for my friends.
They told me “You don’t have to wait for them. We’re your friends. We’ll be your friends. Just come with us.”
I stuck to it and eventually they said some nasty things and walked away.
I went to see my friends, spent some time at their house, went back downtown, got picked up and driven home, and only after I’d been home for awhile did I realize what had almost happened to me.
Understand, I was about 23 years old when this happened. I was not a child, even if their approach to getting me in the car was the same one you’d use on a child.
Also understand that soon, in the newspaper, I read about a spate of stranger abductions/rapes of developmentally disabled women in the same exact area of town.
And then understand that although I detested them on sight, I did not realize the level of danger I was in until I got home. Nor did I realize why I was being singled out, nor recognize the “get in the car and we’ll show you this neat toy” thing from all the “stranger danger” stuff I’d been taught as a kid.
There were two reasons for this:
One, you don’t expect people to do that to you as an adult. I mean, you expect potential rape, you don’t expect people to say “get in the car and I’ll show you a toy” to do it.
Two, I have a terrible ability to remember things in the moment. I remember things when something specific jogs my memory, at which point I remember them incredibly well. Better than most people would. But I don’t remember them unless something does very specifically jog my memory. And I certainly don’t remember them when my mind is too occupied with the sensory bombardments of being downtown on a busy day in a crappy, painful wheelchair.
I had a similar problem when I was a few years older. I was living with someone while construction was being done on my apartment. The person I was living with was in a legal battle.
One day, my roommate left the apartment for an appointment. A woman knocked on the door. I opened it. She came in. She inspected the entire apartment. She looked in every room, she looked underneath things, she looked in corners, it was weird. Then she left. Without a word to me.
It turns out she was a lawyer for the other side of the legal battle. She had waited until my roommate was gone, figuring, correctly, that I wouldn’t know enough to keep her out of the apartment. My roommate was beyond pissed off at me, and screamed at me for awhile about what an idiot I was.
I had gone on autopilot. I was used to strangers coming into my apartment (otherwise known as staff, at that point there was a new staff person every week because I didn’t have “regulars” yet and my case manager was as crappy as they come). I didn’t know I had any right to turn them away, and even if I’d known I might have let them in anyway if I didn’t remember.
What both of these incidents have in common was that at the time they were happening, I might not have liked what was happening, but I didn’t recognize the danger in what was happening. I didn’t fully understand what was going on. I got lucky in both instances, even if the second one wasn’t good, still no serious harm was done.
But at the same time as the second one happened, my roommate and I were getting death threats. People were walking up to the door and screaming threats to ourselves and our pets. What if the woman I’d opened the door to had been intending physical harm, rather than “just” legal harm? I hate to think about it.
It’s not that I’m unaware that danger can exist. It’s that while I’m going about my daily life, my mind is too occupied with far more basic things. And when I do constantly feel in danger, it’s no help to me because my instincts aren’t in line with what would actually help, and the sense of danger is more vague than tailored to specific instances. But most of the time, I am too busy coordinating sensory input and motor output (not to mention all the cognitive stuff in between) to anticipate and respond to situations like this.
The only way that I can do anything about it is to constantly practice rote responses to specific situations, over and over, until they become so automatic that they require no more thought than anything else does. Especially if I can get a situation to trigger a specific response, and ingrain that response thoroughly. That works better than anything.
But simply teaching me intellectually about what to do won’t work.
Intellectual teaching doesn’t filter down into my actual responses to everyday situations. It’s like it exists in a totally different universe than my actual everyday experiences and reactions and real-life situations. I don’t know why it doesn’t work, but it doesn’t work.
And people seem to expect me not to know things and then try to take advantage of that. Whether they’re successful seems to depend more on whether my other reactions happen to let them get away with it or not, not on whether I respond like I ought to respond because i know what I ought to know. Because even when I do have common sense, I can’t seem to call it up at the appropriate time.
...that weird moment
…wherein you are suddenly struck with the realization that your childhood did not happen in a parallel universe, but in the very same one you live in now.
So, what are the chances that you or somebody else can write/talk more about this? Because I went through a period of…
YES re. going through a phase of being utterly bowled over by the visceral realization of one’s own time-continuity. I have had that happen to me a couple times, at least.
p>Recently — and this is the backstory for my original (short) post the other day — I suddenly remembered the name of someone I used to talk to online when I was a young adolescent.
p>This person was my dad’s age and I met him on a poetry BBS (this being back in the days of yore, Internet-wise). It was never a sexual thing but probably a bit weird boundary-wise, because we used to write back and forth about subjects like hallucinogenic drugs (which I had a fascination with at that age).
Anyway, though, that stage of my life was weird and difficult and somewhat bizarre and embarrassing to look back on. I know it all happened, but it kind of hit me oddly when I looked up my old poetry pen-pal and found that he was a real person and also that he still writes poetry and stuff. I had a fleeting urge to write to him again and tell him “hey look, I grew up and I am not a screw-up!” but I didn’t do it and won’t. It just seems like, as nice and non-creepy as this guy was (he actually used to tell me stuff like “you should go talk to your parents about [thing]”) there is no reason to re-hash that part of my past beyond remembering it and realizing it was real.
All of what everyone else has said.
Plus, there’s a couple weird things about the time thing.
One, I used to feel like I was jumped around through time. I don’t know how to describe it. Like I should be able to communicate with myself from different times as if they were real people who were separate from each other. It was hard to see it all as me or even comprehend it.
Two, there have been times where…
I’m really straggling for words, on all of this.
But I’ve felt like I was someone else, someone entirely different, at different times in my life, like I couldn’t even recognize myself on some levels. And when people ask me, “Why did you do this or that at this period in your life?” I used to just make shit up half the time, because I had no idea at all, or even had no idea that I should even have an idea.
Also every few years the years before it fall into a fog that I feel like I can’t penetrate. Except at specific times when I penetrate specific moments, but then nothing before or after them. There’s no continuous memory. Only fragments that pop up at specific times and places in response to specific things. And those fragments can be exceedingly vivid, but the whole of it isn’t there.
And I know the time in your life you’re talking about with the BBSes. I had that time in my life too. Even same obsessive interests. And I rarely even think about it now at all. I think I’d be slightly alarmed if I ran into the guy I talked to back then. (Chalk this up to the fact that I am you from a parallel universe except the universes screwed up and put us in the same one together, two years apart.)