Many of you have heard this story but I'm feeling the need to put it all down. Right now I'm baking a cake and listening to a horror podcast and you know what? I've got a horror story in me and I've got the time to write it so why not.
It all began with Poopy, my 1.5 year old mutt. Leah and I rescued Poopy when she was five months old and not quite potty trained and being the hovercraft parent that I am, I resolved to take her out to pee any time she cried from her kennel at night. Sometimes, this meant I was outside at 4 am and sometimes it meant I was outside multiple times a night. I don't miss it. One of those 4 am mornings, more on the 3 am side, I took Poopy to the center green of our apartment complex in Cambridge, MA. It was October and a little chilly but nothing to wear shoes over so I trod barefoot over the grass singing go potty to the dog.
At this point I saw a beater van pull into the complex. I felt my heart beat quicken. Honestly, seeing anything other than a prius in our neighborhood was unusual. But this fear felt different, more present, more dangerous. I scooped up the wee pup and walked quickly back to our building.
As I reached the courtyard, I turned around, hoping the van was just some country western wannabe lost on a road trip. Our complex had only one entrance and exit so people were frequently lost or stuck in the roundabout. There was the van, stopped as close as it could get. The back passenger side door slid open to reveal a large man in what looked like carhart gear to me who proceeded to run, head down like a bull, right at me and my shivering dog. I ran too. I ran to the door and fumbled with my keys, managed to get inside and up to the first landing when I heard a loud thud--what I imagined as a fist striking the glass in frustration--and turned to see the man's retreating figure.
I was shaken but also still half asleep. I woke Leah and told her what had happened and she insisted we call the police so we did and I gave a statement and then I went to sleep. On my way to work the next morning I received a call from a detective and I repeated my statement. It felt strange. I wasn't really sure I'd seen anything terrible, but on the other hand, I'd felt afraid and I didn't want to ignore my instincts. I tried over and over to rationalize it, someone's boyfriend who'd been locked out, etc--actually that's the only explanation I could come up with and by that point I had a pretty good idea of my neighbors and hadn't really seen a man around that struck me as possibly the same guy.
That night, while walking our dog, Leah and I encountered a news crew thirsty for any details. I asked them not to film my face or use my name, still I caught the cameraman filming Poopy and I freaked out a little. Altogether, it had been chilling. I'd spend the next few weeks taking down the license plates of every suspicious looking van I saw. But, I never turned them over to the detective because I figured that was his job and I didn't want to seem, what's the word, hysterical? I mean, I hadn't been assaulted, or abducted, just chased?
About a month or so after the incident, I received another early morning call from the detective. Only this time, he seemed accusatory. "Hello, Miss Smith, is there any way you could have given us the wrong information?" he asked. I replied with an audible huff and explained for the billionth time that I wasn't sure what I saw or what happened. He continued, "As you know, we've had a security presence in the complex for the last few weeks keeping an eye out for the van you described." He was toying with me. "And, we've seen it."
I became eager. I huffed again. "AND?"
The detective then proceeded to tell me that the man who chased me was none other than the man who delivered my New York Times subscription. Apparently, the poor newspaper man was coming off a night shift at a factory and was just trying to get home to his bed as quickly as possible. Oh and that angry fist I heard on the glass, that was my newspaper.
YES this really happened and yes, I am still living it down.