Right off the top, I’m going to say, of course, Black Lives Matter. We matter. But I’ve never seem the same zest for the cause on foot, in the streets, the same way I do online. Do Black lives matter offline, too? I’m not so sure.
August 2020, not too long into the pandemic, I was outside smoking a cigarette. It was late, likely after 11 pm. But I know my neighborhood and it’s relatively safe. I was only going to be in close proximity to my building.
I didn’t know it yet but I was experiencing bipolar mania. I couldn’t rest to save my life. Some fresh air usually does me some good and I went out to be in the night air. For a smoke. I get the hypocrisy.
Then something happened, and after I saw it, I couldn’t take my mind off it.
A couple guys were sitting beneath a streetlight. Right under it. They weren’t acting stealthy or anything.
I’d lazily walked across the street and as I passed them, I heard 1 say something. He was calling me. There’s a bus stop across the street but there’s a bench by the streetlight. I thought maybe that’s what they were inquiring about.
As I got closer and pulled my earbud from one of my ears, I could see the man who was seated was…presenting himself to me.
🤯 They’re not ashamed, why should I be? #Hackensack #NewJersey #NJ last week #MeTooAgain Thought I was a kid short 116 lbs. In front of my home. Not 1 neighbor would even look at the pics. Don’t want to get involved. Still wonder why #MeToo continues? 🤬 https://t.co/MM8y3GyQBQ pic.twitter.com/J6gt6BXqkA
— ✨🅟🅐🅣🅡🅘🅒🅘🅐 (@EverythingAHWP) August 28, 2020
I Was Not Alone
What I didn’t know at the time was that one of my neighbors was right across the street, in front of my building, watching the whole thing as he casually scrolled his phone. Big dude. He just stood there.
From that video alone you could defend him, saying he couldn’t possibly have known what was happening. I wasn’t screaming. I didn’t make noise. I didn’t make a scene.
Oh, but I did. After that first video from my camera phone, I walked away to cross the street and go back into my building. But I noticed that while one of the men disappeared, the other just stood in between 2 buildings, just in the shadows, and I thought he was watching to see where I was going.
That concerned me so I made noise, and a lot of it, and I kept filming.
While that man who stood there watching the whole scene could claim he didn’t hear, didn’t see, didn’t notice, that’s difficult to conceive when I could see the glow of cell phones in the curtained and shaded windows of my apartment building popping up.
But What Could He Do, Really?
You might also say, “Well, what could anyone do really?”
Open a window. Bang a pot. Call out, “We see you, motherfucker! We see you!!” Let predatorial people in our neighborhoods know we are watching.
[I recall clearly growing up being told to always yell fire if being attacked. Never rape. People care about their property, not people?]
Didn’t we all clap in unison across the country for the healthcare workers at the start of the pandemic? [Well, some of you did. Instead of clapping, I did stuff, like swept the front of my building while my superintendent wasn’t available to do so. But I digress.]
We made noise for those who couldn’t even hear us or thank us personally. But in our own neighborhoods we don’t make a sound for each other? Just feet away? Within earshot and with occular proof, too?
That man, my neighbor, stood there and watched. I didn’t know anyone was outside besides me until I saw him standing by the doors as I arrived at the steps.
Well, Maybe I Was Alone
Surprised that I wasn’t alone, I blurted out, “Did you see that?” Thinking he must have just walked out and caught the tail end of it.
As smoothly as he inhaled his cigarette he said, “You looked like you had it handled.”
Wow. That sentence speaks volumes in my head to this day. That’s that old my-family, your-family, no-community mentality that keeps the most vulnerable (the young, the disabled, the mentally challenged) in harm’s way close to home.
In my transparent shock and awe, I asked if he wanted to see the video I took. Because he’s a dude, I warned him that I didn’t know how clear it was but explained the content. He stopped me. He said he doesn’t want to see another man.
Now, completely ready for a heart attack, I asked, “Don’t you have a wife, a daughter, a friend, a neighbor? Anyone you care about that you might wanna know to watch out for this guy?” I was literally gulping back tears. He just didn’t care. He looked right through me, as if I were just ranting about bad weather and humidity.
But I’m Not Afraid
Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a native New Yorker; from the Bronx, originally. I was raised to have eyes in the back of my head. I was not afraid of these 2 guys. What concerned me is that they didn’t know I was a woman over 50 years old.
I am 5 feet tall, even with slippers on 😆 but for the last decade or so I’ve maintained a weight between 165 and 145 average. Thick.
During the pandemic and being manic (awake for days, burning calories and not eating regularly) I had lost weight. So much so that my size 16’s were replaced with size 4’s which, at the time of this incident, was even a little loose on me. Because it was summer, one size fits all flowy sundresses were my wardrobe. I was self-conscious about how few clothes I had that fit well; most now hanging on me, leaving me looking like I’d borrowed a friend’s outfit.
With a mask on and now having gone natural, even some of my neighbors didn’t recognize me until they heard my voice when I said hello. Remember, we weren’t out and about for awhile.
So when these guys felt comfortable enough to do this, I was concerned that they thought I wasn’t a grown woman, but a younger vulnerable target.
Just Days Before
Just days before this occurred, I had walked to the nearby McDonald’s on River Street in Hackensack. Even though they were open, they’d locked the doors earlier than normal and I had to walk around to the drive-thru window to get my order.
While waiting for my meal, I noticed the lights of a parked trucked turned on shortly after, the driver was right between me and the drive-thru window.
I pulled my mask down to mouth to the cashier to please hurry. My back was to the driver.
The driver, a Black man, clean-looking guy, rolled down his window and asked if he could buy my meal, and he held out 3 $100 bills toward me.
He wasn’t just being friendly. Even if he did just want to pay for my meal, I’m at McDonald’s. Hold out a $20. He wasn’t trying to buy me food. He was trying to buy me.
I was wearing Levi’s and a black tshirt, XS petite child size, and sneakers. Not that it matters.
After thanking him and declining the offer, it seemed he was determined to wait for me to get my order. He was pissing me off.
I placed my hand in my bag as if I were reaching for my phone and told him I really wasn’t interested but he didn’t budge. You know what got him to leave me alone?
I pulled down my mask and said, “Dude, I’m over 50. I’m a grown-ass woman. Take your $300 dollars to another parking lot and I’ll snap your license plate as you drive the fuck away.”
He was SO apologetic. He put his hand up and said sorry, and leaned toward shame, not aggression. He hesitated to drive off, not because he was still apologizing. He didn’t want me to be in the position to get the plate.
I got my bag, I walked to away and made sure he knew I could see him just as well as he could see me. I didn’t want to give him reason to become aggressive behind the wheel or to see where I was going so I strolled slowly along until he disappeared somewhere.
Sex Trafficking in Hackensack, NJ
Sex trafficking has been on the rise during the pandemic and for good reason. Besides the financial aspect, it’s harder now to even describe an offender if they’re masked. And, of course, with fewer people out and about, it’s easier for predators to hunt.
In February of 2021, 22 were charged in an international human trafficking ring raking in over $250k a month right here in Hackensack, New Jersey. That means some people just disappeared. Never went back home from wherever they were when they were caught at an inopportune moment. Maybe while thanking a man for buying her a McDonald’s meal; the same man who targeted her while he sat in his truck in the parking lot.
That’s more concerning to me than my own immediate safety. I know what it’s like not to know when or if I would go home again.
What is it about our voices that are so loud online but on foot, in our own neighborhoods, they are silenced? We claim we don’t understand how predators get away with what they do and for so long, and this is the answer. Silence. It’s our collective silence. Like the silence that helped Jeffrey Epstein act out his predatorial behavior for all those years. Even good people can have a someone else will handle it attitude.
How do you feel about it? Would you have said something? Is it just not an issue?
What say you? I look forward to your comments.
Report Human Sex Trafficking in Bergen County
Anyone who has been the victim of human trafficking is encouraged to call the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Tipline at 201-226-5532.
😔Just a rant. #chronicinsomnia Sick of #MeToo and tired of #BLM NOT mattering. 🎶makes me wanna holla throw up both my hands🎶 - I can’t EVEN this morning 💯 @TheEllenShow @TheRealDaytime [blurred AFTER upload 🤷🏽♀️] #EAHWP 👇🏽https://t.co/Ao291ivVNw pic.twitter.com/Ir02cg0J1s— ✨🅟🅐🅣🅡🅘🅒🅘🅐 (@EverythingAHWP) August 28, 2021