January 22nd, 2016
I went to go see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid the other night. It was playing at my favorite theater and being in the movies is a good way to not be stuck in my car. Being in a movie theater is one of my best ways to unwind and reset. Plus, it’s a good way to sit in the dark so no one sees your face, no one recognizes you.
That’s what I thought, anyway.
I like to theater-hop. I had been in there most of the day. Sitting in the dark, texting my sister. This guy came walking up the stairs. It only really caught my attention as he passed in the row behind me, went to the other side and began back down the stairs on the other side hoping, not walking, on one foot.
Now there are certainly a lot of people in the world with their own… idiosyncrasies. Neurological problems existed well before Ratfanger’s became something people worried about. It was too dark to see if his skin had taken on that septic color and too many people in this country are overweight to really go on that, either.
So, I slouched into my seat, and the next time he came through, almost fifteen minutes later, I began to rub my face with my hands. He hopped through and continued a third time before the movie started. My sister asked if she could join me. She has just gotten her license but I told her it was a better idea that she not.
Right about that scene where Butch is defending his leadership in the Hole in the Wall Gang, the guy comes hopping back up again. I covered my face with my right hand, wanting to still be able to see the movie. But this time the guy stopped a few rows ahead and seemed to be staring in my direction.
If he had seen me, I knew that suddenly covering my face entirely was only going to escalate things. So I just sat there and pretended not to notice him. After a bit, I was a little relieved that he had not moved. One of the problems people with Ratfanger’s suffer from is impulse control. Just standing around is not something you see. It was increasingly obvious that whatever was going wrong with this person, I didn’t need to worry about him.
A minute passed and someone shouted for him to quit blocking the view. Someone else spoke up in his defense, saying he obviously couldn’t help it. A woman stood and walked down to the man, spoke closely to him and escorted him out of the theater.
After the movie I stayed halfway through the credits, texting my sister again. I was going to go into one more theater before they closed, kill another two or three hours before finding a place to park the car for the night. I wasn’t the last person in there but I wanted to be out before anyone came through to clean it. You don’t want the staff to have too much time to see your face and recognize you. Even if there isn’t a social media trend posting your picture so people can find you. You just don’t want to be in that awkward situation of some teenager deciding to call the cops because you’re watching movies for free.
I got up and went down the stairs, turned into the hallway towards the exit which turned hard right at the trash cans. The man was standing there, as he probably had been the whole time. I shouldn’t have screamed, or shouted out, or whatever I did. I should have just walked past him. But as I saw him I knew what he was, I knew he was sick, and I knew he was waiting for me.
Shouting only instigated what happened next.
Keep in mind, I’ve been in this situation before. I should be better at it. I have rehearsed what I would do the next time someone tried to grab me, to take me against my will.
But I didn’t. Maybe because… I’m still not the person I want to be. Maybe because I won’t ever be brave. Maybe because this person wasn’t trying to capture me.
His head flew back, his arms shot forward and his mouth opened.
I had never seen anything like that. Even when Rob attacked me, he was… it just sort of happened. His impulse control was so far gone he did what he did without even realizing it.
This guy very clearly meant to take a bite out of me.
At that point, it probably was more of a scream than a shout. I ran back into the theater; I knew other people were there. I don’t know what I expected them to do, maybe intervene, maybe call the cops. They just sat there for what was probably less than a second. To me it was a very long period of time of looking at them for help, help I didn’t bother asking for because I thought it was clear that I need it.
The man was running after me. I turned and ran out the fire escape.
The hallway there is more like a tunnel, unlit and unused. I slammed the door closed, hitting the man in the face with it, knocking him on his ass, before throwing myself against it to keep it closed. For a few moments there was nothing.
I thought I had maybe killed him.
As I was about to loosen my knees, take my weight off the door, he hit it so hard I almost flew off it. He began hitting it again and again, so loudly… I knew I only had to wait for the theater staff to show up to clean. They would see what was happening and call security.
He hit the door again and again. I wasn’t sure I could keep him out long enough for security to arrive. The man would get through the door after hitting it so hard I would lose my balance. As I struggled to get off the floor he’d attack me.
Next Time I Say Let’s Go Someplace Like Bolivia…
As soon as he stopped hitting the door, I knew I had seconds to step into the darkened hallway and find anything I could to barricade the door.
In either direction, there was nothing. It was a fire escape. There couldn’t be anything in the hallway.
Nothing but doors.
Including the door on the other side of the theater. He burst through it, a little more than a hundred feet away, with something like a yelp and a guffaw. His force was so great he ran into the wall across, bounced off. I could hear him begin to run as I took off.
I tried to enter the other theaters through their fire exits, each time costing myself another ten feet between us.
Giving up, I ran into the darkness towards the glowing red “EXIT” sign.
I should have turned and hit him. I should have tackled him and beat him until he couldn’t get up.
I jumped into the exit to make sure there was no chance it would jam, that it would be too heavy to open as quickly as I needed, and in turn I flew through it and tumbled down the concrete steps into the parking lot beneath.
If I were a stronger person, a better man, I would have stop and defended myself.
But he was sick, like so many people are sick. And, ironically, if I were to give up and let him catch me, he would be cured. So even as he came racing down the stairs after me, bearing his teeth and giggling, I felt like the villain for running.
I bobbed and weaved between parked cars until I was sure I had lost him.
After I got out of my work service yesterday, I saw a headline. He found someone else in the parking lot and attacked them. He disfigured a woman just getting off her shift at the Yard House.
She’s going to need multiple surgeries she probably can’t afford to restore the damage he did to her. He’s being detained but his attorney is saying he’s not responsible because he’s sick. That he wouldn’t have been sick anymore if he had caught me, instead.
And meanwhile I escape to this… life of sleeping in my car, avoiding others. A life I barely consider to be worth living. Yet I still put myself ahead of everyone else. I know I shouldn’t feel so guilty, but I don’t know how to stop.