“Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.” – “Counting Stars” by One Republic
In the late fall of the millennial year, I was a passenger in a car driven by a stranger. I’d been living in North London near Golders Green tube in Cricklewood for university since the beginning of September. When I first moved in, a walk around the borough showed that it was inhabited by colorful characters and far removed from posh Notting Hill. But it was my London home and I didn’t let it phase me one bit.
On this particular cool evening, I found myself heading out into the night air for a 20-minute walk back to my halls of residence from my boyfriend’s flat. He’d offered to walk me home, but in typical stubborn fashion, I refused. I cut through the parking lot behind the block of flats and struck up a conversation with a bloke in his mid-twenties. We exchanged pleasantries and since he was heading out and going my way, he offered me a ride. Thinking nothing of it, I climbed into the passenger seat of his sedan.
I ignored the shrill rings of my mobile on the 3/4 mile drive. My driver asked if I needed to answer my phone and I shrugged, acknowledging it was just my boyfriend and I could call back in a bit.
I was delivered safe and sound and without incident across the street from my living quarters much faster than had I walked.
In my mind, no harm done.
Back within the confines of my dorm, I was under heat from a boyfriend who was beyond livid, believing I’d put myself in a potentially life-threatening situation. He’d heard me talking to the stranger, saw me get into the car and yelled after me, feeling absolutely helpless. Even his flatmates were stunned at what I’d done. They’d never speak to their neighbors, let alone accept a ride from one of them.
My protests were futile, but I still tried to argue that the guy was nice and just trying to be friendly and helpful. My side was not listened to and whatever I said did nothing to diffuse the anger directed towards me. Sure, I appreciated everyone’s concern but dismissed it.
The car incident isn’t the only illustration of my flirtation with recklessness, just probably the one fraught with the most risk. Stateside in college the year prior, I lived with friends in a second story apartment in the back of a house. A favorite place of mine to perch was the railing ledge outside our door. Sometimes I’d dangle one leg on the pavement side, sending said friends into hysterics as they were convinced that I was in mortal danger of plummeting to the ground. I used my friends’ fear as inspiration behind a scars, wounds and disfigurements project in makeup class which I think only frustrated them more.
My unabashed boldness continued through the years. Despite living in Chicago herself for a number of years, my Grandma constantly fears for my safety because now I’m the one living in the city and this must mean I’m in imminent danger of attack, robbery, or a litany of other unsavory acts. One Christmas she gave me Mace. She didn’t like that I had to walk after work late at night four blocks to catch a bus. I never carried the Mace.
I’ve tried to explain to Grandma and others that things can happen to you anywhere: city, country, suburbs. I refuse to be fearful of this neighborhood or that and most things won’t hold me back or scare me too much. My advice? Be aware of your surroundings and above all – don’t live life in fear. And I guess in retrospect, it’s not the best idea to accept rides from strangers. (Even if they seem to be really nice guys).