Street harassment was taken to an all time new level with an incident that lasted about a little over a month in 1989. After this incident, I changed my entire perspective on the way in which I say Good Morning.
On my way to Secretarial College, just another Monday morning walking up Frederick Street with my sister, a tall lanky man, many years my senior, told me Good Morning with a pleasant and seemingly genuine smile. I looked directly at him and acknowledged his gaze and replied with a smile – “Good Morning”. I was 17, never had a boyfriend and was none the wiser that one Good Morning could cause a fear to haunt me for a very long time.
He waited for me the following day, and the day after that, just to say Good Morning. Of course, I stopped replying or crossed the street whenever I saw him. To my surprise I noticed that he began waiting higher up the street every morning, and realized he would eventually figure out where my school was. I began to take different routes. This sometimes made me late for school. So I would have to get up even earlier on mornings to take a taxi to avoid this idiot. In retrospect, I really don’t remember ever telling anyone. I did not want to worry my already nervous mother, for fear of her promptly having me attend a similar school closer to home. I was grown, damn it, and I loved being in Port of Spain.
Unfortunately many days I just did not wake up early enough and the shortest route to school, up Frederick Street, was my only option. This man began to follow me up Frederick Street at least 2 or 3 times a week.
The thought of this man following me now consumed my entire morning. Which street to take? Where would he be if I walked here? When and at what point on Frederick Street would be best to cross the street? Then he started getting closer. Mind you, he said nothing to me, just followed me. Until one day, after about 3 weeks, I looked back and there he was, right behind me walking into the school yard! I could hardly breathe. Without even realizing it, I was now running inside the school compound. I was lucky that the Principal saw what was happening and stopped him immediately. She saw me quickly getting in the door – I guess my body language spoke the fear that I could not speak.
After the Principal made him leave, she asked me what was going on and who he was. I told her I didn’t know him and gave her the entire story. She alerted our security guard. For months after, I changed my route to school. I didn’t even know which street I would take to get to school till after I got out the taxi.
The incidents lessened but completely ended when I saw the said older man on Carnival Monday by the Savannah, and told my brother that this was the man following me to school. This man towered me. I am tall and he seemed a good foot taller that me, though in retrospect fear makes you envision a person to be bigger than they really are. My half-brother, half my height proceeded to spew curse words at the coward and without a fight he said sorry and I never saw him again.
Of course had I told my brother months earlier, I might have been spared so much grief. It’s good to speak up and to speak sooner rather than later. If that man had ever gotten me alone, I am not sure what he would have done. But thankfully, it was not worse.
To this day, if a stranger says Good Morning, I never look him in his eyes and I never smile. But I will, 9 out of 10 times, still say Good Morning.