After all these years, I still have nightmares about you. Horrible, vivid nightmares that linger in my thoughts for days. I hate that you can still affect my sleep. I hate the anger and the fear that still consumes me when I think about you. I hate that I remember your eyes, in vivid detail, over thirty years later.
It was late in the summer of 1984, a beautiful day. The sort of day that you never imagine anything bad happening. The lazy sort of day when people go on picnics and children play in the park. I’d been out most of the morning and had a bag full of groceries in my arms when I rounded the corner to the mobile home I had just moved into a few weeks before. It was turned to face away from the rest of the park, from my front door could only be seen a wide open field and then trees. A fact that I’m sure made me seem a more appealing victim.
Needless to say, I was surprised to find a stranger sitting on my porch.
I still remember what you were wearing. Blue plaid button down and jeans. Your hair was blonde and your eyes were wide-spaced and blue. There had been something about your eyes that had made me uneasy, even in that first moment. I was 19 years old and still believed that nothing bad could ever happen to me. Especially not on a beautiful summer Sunday.
“Hey, is your old man home?”
How many times have I regretted how I answered that question?
“I don’t have an old man, you must be looking for the guy who lived here before I moved in. I heard he went to live with his brother.”
You fed off of my words like I was feeding you candy. If you’d needed any confirmation that I lived alone and that there was no one there to protect me, you had it then.
You said your name was Danny, and then you told me that you were separated. I remember finding it odd that you told me about your separation and showed me a picture of your wife and child. You didn’t know me before that moment, after all, and we’d barely even spoken in the one or two minutes since I walked up. Was this designed to lull me into some false sense of security? To make me think that you were harmless? Was hearing that you were married and had a child supposed to make me think that you were incapable of such evil?.
“Well, you might check with the landlord and see if she knows where your friend moved to.” It hadn’t occurred to me that you hadn’t even mentioned him by name. You know what they say about hindsight being 20/20. “I should get inside and put away these groceries.”
“Mind if I come in with you?”
Another alarm in the pit of my stomach.
“No, I’d prefer if you didn’t.”
I remember the expression on your face, the way your head turned sharply and your gaze narrowed and you responded as if you were actually surprised that I didn’t just invite you in.
“No, I’d prefer if you didn’t. I’m expecting company soon.” I lied, but you made me uncomfortable. I had the good sense not to walk up the steps until you had come down them.
You left, and I forgot all about you in the hour that passed. I forgot about that feeling in the pit of my gut the moment you disappeared from my view. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, after all, and now I was alone. I had put away my groceries, then opened my front door to let in some sunlight and so that my cat could come and go as he pleased. I stretched out on my couch and started reading a book.
The stranger who had been on my porch no longer existed then. I wouldn’t even remember you telling me your name until days later, and I’d have probably never thought of you again at all, but a break in the sunlight made me look up from the book that I was reading. And there you were still in your plaid shirt and jeans, only now you were wearing gloves, a ski mask, and you had a knife in your hand.
Did you think I wouldn’t know it was you? Even if you’d bothered to change clothes, I’d have known it the moment I saw your eyes.
A moment later, before I’d even had time to comprehend what was happening and sit up, you had crossed my small living room to the couch where I was laying with my book, and we were wrestling.
Why did you want to kill me? I assume that’s what you intended. You kept saying it over and over again. Was it because I didn’t invite you in?
“I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you.” Those were the only words you said to me in the moments that followed. And you said them over and over like a mantra.
I still don’t know how I ended up with your knife in my hand (I remember thinking I should stab you with it, but that thought was followed by wondering what would happen if I didn’t manage to kill you), so I just held on to it and fought harder. I don’t remember how I managed to get on my knees, either. But I remember the headlock you put me in once I was on them. Your fist pounded my face again and again and again. My face beaten beyond recognition within a matter of seconds.
I don’t know how it was that I was stronger than you. I was certainly stronger that I believed I was. Than I still believe that I am. I did get to my feet, after all, your knife still in my hand, and you hanging on to me, punching me, slamming your hand over my mouth after I finally thought to scream.
Isn’t it funny that with that scream came a moment of clarity and calmness? You moved your hand from my mouth (I assume to get a better hold of me), and suddenly I was talking to you in a calm voice. “You know the door is open.” I don’t know what you thought I meant, but in my own mind I was telling you that someone was bound to have heard me scream. I found out later that no one did.
Another moment and you ran out of my front door. I stumbled to the phone to call the police with blood pouring from my broken nose, staining my summer dress.
I never spent another night in that house. And now I triple check my doors every night to make sure that they are locked. I never, ever leave my door open anymore, not even on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. All these years later in this sleepy little town that I now call home.
There are things I want to ask you. Mainly, “Why me?”
What horrible thing did I ever do to deserve you trying to kill me? What could possess a man to do such a terrible, violent thing to a 19-year-old girl he doesn’t even know?
I don’t know if you were ever caught, though I hope that you were. I know I wasn’t the only one… and I expect there were others that followed me.
I hope that you are dead.
I hope that you are rotting.
I hope that you aren’t still out there hurting people.