I was 16 and covered in Banana Boat tanning oil or some equally wretched grease that I’ll soon loathe myself for having slathered on my beautiful young skin before baking in the sun half the day. I was sprawled across a bright pink towel adorned with a hibiscus flower design and “Hawaii” in large, cursive letters; a souvenir from some relative’s recent trip. One of my friends was stretched out next to me. We lay with our eyes closed, staring up at the sun from behind our eyelids. Then there was a feeling. Someone watching.
I opened my eyes slowly, letting the sun in, adjusting to the brightness, and turned my head toward the water. He was 20 feet away in a canoe, suddenly caught, scrambling to drop the binoculars and look like he belonged. Belonging wasn’t a thing he had ever done well, especially not right now.
We ran to the house. Left our shoes and shorts and the Hawaii towel lying on the dock with a grease print the shape of an underdeveloped 16 year-old girl.
He had been caught doing the same thing years prior so the neighbor shot holes in his canoe. I guess he patched them. If I had known he was out of jail we would’ve stayed closer to the house.
Two hours ago I was pushing the lawnmower up and down the hill in our front yard. I have to stand on the sidewalk to mow the front hill. A man needed to get by, so I pushed the mower up a little bit and waited like I do for everyone else. He didn’t move. He stood behind me, two feet away. I turned around to look at him. He stared back at me gently rubbing his chin, waiting. I started mowing again. He stood behind me, staring at my ass while I pushed the mower.
I shouldn’t have worn shorts, I thought to myself.
He was still there. Three minutes now. I pushed the mower all the way up the hill and worked closer to the house. Five minutes. I pushed the mower into the backyard and closed the fence behind me. He left.
He knows where I live, where I sleep, where I shower.
It feels the same every time. Nausea. Racing heart. What if he comes closer? What could I hit him with? Lock the doors. Call someone.
I should feel safe in my own yard. I should feel safe everywhere. But especially in my own god damn yard.