**Warning, the following deals with sensitive material, that it is deeply personal and has some graphic content***
Every once and awhile, the best of intentions are shattered and you are left wondering where it all went wrong. You blame yourself for something that was never your fault and shy away from everyone including yourself. Until what is left, is unrecognizable from where you started…
The train memory…
Norby… the name will forever be associated with over a year of my life that was ran by fear and intimidation. I was left wondering why my life turned upside down and inside out while he just kept doing what he wanted.
I will take you back to when it started. I worked nights at a 7-Eleven, putting myself through university. There was a regular customer, came in like clockwork… midnight, got a Pepsi, Oh Henry and a pack of cigarettes. We would talk, he would tell me of his day before heading down to a warehouse where the owner let him sleep so he wasn’t in the cold. Norby worked as a dishwasher for cash at a restaurant however he said he was homeless for most his life. He had travelled across Canada mostly on train. He was middle-aged and for the first couple months harmless.
One night we when were outside smoking sitting on the bike rack, talking, he told me he loved me, that he was glad he met me, and with this words his hand ran the length of my thigh and for a second while my mind caught up to my shock his hand rested high between my legs. As soon as I could move my hand I shoved his hand off me, and ran inside. Ashamed by how I had been suckered in I put my head down and worked. Looking back now, I would have done a thousand things differently in that moment but that is the beauty of hindsight. The next night I returned to work, fooling myself into thinking that he would not have the nerve to show up after what happened. I started my shift, and then midnight, the door opens I hear the bell, I turn to greet and there he is. My heartbeat is echoing in my ears, I become nauseous, angry, and humiliated. I go to the backroom, shaking, fighting the urge to puke, scream, run in shame. I wish the story stopped there, however it did not. I was a smoker then, and a couple of days later, I went for a cigarette during the day when I should have been studying or sleeping and there on my street watching my building like in a movie was Norby. I had notified the police, I told them what happened at work and the following, and the delusions, he was telling coworkers we were in love. The police advised me to not go anywhere alone, always keep the door locked, and because of his situation (being homeless) it is harder to serve him or arrest him. I listened to the police. My mom started driving me to work nightly, so I wouldn’t have to take transit. I stopped going out during the day, always watched over my shoulder. I did exactly what they said and it seemed to work, I stopped seeing him, he stopped coming in the manager of the business told him it was trespassing he was banned and if he came in he would be charged. For some reason one night my mom could not drive me so we decided I would be on the phone with her the entire way and I had someone from work picking me up at train station so I did not have to walk from station to store. It seemed to be ok, so we did it another time, all was ok then. You don’t need to be a genius to see my foreshadowing…. one night I felt safe enough to go alone, no phone, no insurance policy. I made it on the bus, waited for the train ok. Got on train, sat down and took a breath I was almost there, as my sigh of relief was leaving my body, a man sat down next to me, I did not even have to look to know. An arm came around me and pulled me close “I haven’t been able to see you in so long, you are making it hard for us to be together, I want you to meet my friends at the restaurant, come for thanksgiving. You are all I am grateful for.” I was frozen, I had no idea what to say, then instinct took over. The police told me that to arrest him they needed to find him. So I looked him in the eye and said; ” that sounds great Norby, I would like that.” I didn’t even recognize the voice coming from me, I just knew he could not get spooked, I had to get him to 7 Eleven so I could call the 911 and have this over. I could end my nightmare, right?
It would be months until court, months I looked over my shoulder afraid. Finally the day came when we would meet in court. I had decided not to speak, I had however written a victim impact system, detailing the year of my life that was turned upside down, inside out and back again. It turned out there was another girl at another business he had assaulted and she too wrote a statement. Norby pled guilty and was given time served and I was granted a sexual protection order where if he violated it he would be put in jail. I was told to carry around my order and if I saw him, he me and didn’t leave I could call police and he would be picked up. I would love to tell you that, that never happened, that after court he disappeared and I never saw him again, but that was not the case. The corner of 8th and 8th downtown Calgary on the train platform, he approached me. He did not get on the train he was just stood there watching me smiling. I called the police, gave them the case number, explained what happened and they said they would drive by. I never had contact with him again. It is such an anti climatic ending to a whirlwind of a year
I look back at that year of my life, and remember the fear. The assault sadly had very little to do with the fear, it was his stalking, I never knew if he was behind the corner, if at the next train stop he would get on. He would stand across the street from my apartment, my work. I felt dirty all the time. I was afraid to be alone, yet afraid of crowds because I could not see him coming. I was governed by fear, survival. It was a life altering experience. It for a long time made me fearful of all homeless people. I stopped giving change, smiling at them for fear I gave the wrong impression. I felt stupid that I had befriended someone who I could misjudge so easily and severely. As time went on, the fear faded, the resentment passed. I stopped holding myself and others accountable for HIS actions HIS choices. The blame and fault rest solely on him and him ALONE.
I did not reach this level of clarity on the subject quickly. I worked at it. I dealt with it and the issues this event brought up and I talked about it. I shared my story, the more I did this, the less I felt scared, or the less I felt like a victim and the more I felt like a survivor. In today’s climate and in the age of the #metoo movement I feel like we need to talk about these things openly and honestly because there is no shame in this. The fault is not on the “victim” and no one has the right to make you feel less than.. It took me a long time to see that and I hope by having the conversations someone else who has survied an assault will realize this too.