My debut novel, Monument 14, comes out this month. In it, a bunch of insanely scary things happen to a bunch of girls and guys. It got me thinking about the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. It wasn’t an earthquake or a chemical spill, but it was deeply troubling. Back when I was in a Junior Year Abroad program in Spain, I was assaultedby a man in the Ladies room of a train station.
I needed to go, so I left my bag with my friends and headed toward the building alone.
When I entered the Ladies room, a man came out of one of the stalls, then a second later I realized his pants were down around his knees. He was medium height – actually about three inches shorter than me. He had a scruffy face and salt and pepper hair and he stank of old wine.
My brain was still registering what I was seeing – I think I was somewhat frozen – and then he stepped up to me and grabbed my chest. It hurt and I immediately started hitting back. I smacked at him quickly with both hands and pushed him away from me. I stumbled out through the door and rushed back to the terminal to find my friends.
When I finally got them to understand what had happened to me, they insisted we tell the police. I didn’t want to. But then a Policeman passed by us at that exact moment. I told him the story and gave a description of the man. They took my information and said they would be in contact if they found him.
We had, by this time, missed our train, so we decided to have a soda at a cafe. About a half-hour later, the policeman returned. He had another policeman with him and together they were holding the arms of a middle height man with salt and pepper hairand a scruffy face.
“Is this the man?” the first policeman asked. “Miss, I don’t know what’s happening,” the guy said in Spanish. “Is everything okay?” It was absolutely him. I looked into his bloodshot eyes and smelled his breath. “Yes, that’s him!” I said.
Immediately he began cursing and shouting at me in Spanish. The Policemen wrestled him back toward the station and asked me to follow them. In the office the policemen cuffed the creep.
“Do you want to press charges?” the policeman asked me. He explained that if I did, I’d have to hire a lawyer and return six to eight weeks later for a trial. Well, my trip was almost over. I would be back in New York by then. “No,” I told the policeman. “I won’t be able to return for a court date. I won’t press charges.”
The creep gave a little smile. The Policeman said he understood.
Then something happened that made me very happy we were in Spain, where they had, at the time at least, perhaps a more liberal application of the law then we did in the States.The policeman stood up, crossed to the creep and backhanded him across the face. Then he grabbed him by the arm, marched him to the door, paused to remove the handcuffs and proceeded to throw him through the door and out onto the marble floor of the station.
It was a completely freaky and scary incident, but I got through okay. Sometimes, that’s the best we can do. Looking back, I wish I’d known karate and could have really kicked that guy’s butt.
For more scary stuff, check out my book, Monument 14.
What would you have done if you’d been in my shoes? What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you? Tell me in the comments.