25 October, 2014


It is true that I sometimes want to pound on the walls of the world
and kick and scream and stomp my feet through the crust of the earth
and demand to have my daddy back.

But it doesn't work like that
so instead I write.


Since I wrote about the disappearance of a student at my alma mater, Hannah Graham, earlier this month, I felt an obligation to acknowledge that her body was positively identified this week. I am so sorry for her family. As with children I have personally cared for, I prayed for a miracle against all odds, until I heard the news report tonight. I hope that the investigation will give her family, and Morgan Harrington's, all the answers they need to find some peace.

© Tara LaTour
When I was 21, I lived in Copenhagen, and one night, I went to the theatre by myself to see the Danish Royal Ballet's interpretation of Homer's Odyssey. The ballet was called, simply, Odyssée, and I still remember that Athena danced in skinny jeans and pointe shoes, and Penelope's handmaidens paced the stage in royal blue satin, strapless ball gowns with impossibly long, long trains. The slow drag of the gowns back and forth across the floor was (maybe?) meant to symbolize the weaving and unweaving of the tapestry by Penelope, as she tries to stall her suitors.

As I waited to take the metro home after the performance, a man, probably in his thirties, approached me and struck up a conversation. He wanted to know my name, where I was from. Never one to feel obligated in the arena of social graces, I was unfriendly to the point of rudeness.

But he was insistent. He kept saying, "I think you just don't understand my Jamaican English," with a smile that verged on a leer. He did have a strong Jamaican accent, and afterwards, I wondered if he hadn't even tagged me as a vulnerable foreigner, just a pretty young girl out alone at night.

When our train arrived, I hurried on and clambered over another young woman to grab the window seat next to her. Undeterred, he took the seat in front of us and turned around to continue talking to me and asking where I was going. I elected to look at the window and ignore him. At the next stop, which happen to be the large central station, I quite literally leapt over my seat mate and raced through the car doors, running up stairs and escalators, and finally into a bustling café, where I found a table that was thoroughly surrounded by other customers but still afforded me a view of the café entrance and station beyond.

I ordered coffee and sat there for an hour or so. If I had been more outgoing, or in an English-speaking country, I might have shared my predicament with the waitress: although nearly every Dane I encountered spoke fluent English on par with the average American, I was still embarrassed by my appalling grasp of Danish and hated having to act on the presumption that someone else spoke my language, in their country. (It seems a bit silly, but I've always liked to at least be able to say, I'm sorry, I don't speak ____. Do you speak English? in the languages of the places I travel. And I appreciate the same in return, especially from anyone who has chosen to live in the U.S.)

Eventually, with frequent glances over my shoulder, I worked up the courage to get back on the train and make the 200-yard walk from the station to my flat. Once inside, I logged on to AOL Instant Messenger and relayed the creepy encounter to every friend online.

I'll never know what that man's intention was, but I'm very glad not to have found out more. It doesn't matter much, except to me, as I try to make a story out of my life. I've had a charmed one so far; this was one of the very, very few times in which I have been genuinely scared, and it happened in one of the safest cities in the world. Was I lucky? Smart? Overly suspicious of a socially oblivious guy desperate to meet people in a new place?

If I was lucky, I won't ask why. I already know there aren't any good answers.

© Shaun Leane

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