Stop Me at Your Peril
The freedom to run is the freedom to be
by Elaine Gilmartin
Some years ago, I was running on a beautiful, warm spring morning just as the sky was turning pink with the sunrise. Lost in my usual reverie, headphones provided the perfect backdrop to my footfalls as I savored the silent, still air. It seemed as if I were all alone in the world, joyously alone in the world, that is, at least until something alien punctured that wonderful illusion. My forward progress halted, abruptly, rudely, when I was accosted by a man jumping out of the bushes, that beautiful day marred by that sudden, unexpected blight on my vision.
In the span of about 1.2 seconds, he groped me — or rather my sports bra — and then sauntered off on the sidewalk from whence I just came. It took me probably another two or three seconds to process what happened, so foreign it was to my previously joyous mindset. I turned, watched his lumbering form ambling along the sidewalk, evidently not registering me as a threat, and in a surprise even to myself, tore off after him shouting profanities I hadn’t even known I knew. And in a decibel slicing into the stillness of that silent spring morning.
He turned briefly, saw me charging after him in all my fury, and he raced for a schoolyard fence, hurtling himself over it and tearing across the baseball field. I briefly entertained the notion of following suit given my indignation, but probably wisely, chose not to do so, despite the satisfaction I would have earned from pummeling him mercilessly.
The last thing I recall screaming, ironically, was, “Come back and fight like a man!” Don’t know why I said that, except that maybe everything he had just done was cowardly. And why we equate being a man with being tough, I don’t know, since I was the one still standing.
So anyway, I rang the nearest doorbell, asked to use the phone to call the police, to which the pajama-clad occupants graciously agreed. After all, you don’t leave some random bush-hiding-groper to attack the next woman.
The police came, said they would drive around the community to look for a guy with an average build, of average height, wearing nondescript clothes. Yeah, good luck with that.