I was 8 and he didn't offer me any candy or ask me to help look for his dog. He didn't have a covered van and I wasn't walking alone at dusk. He wasn't wearing a trench coat and he didn't have a creepy mustache.
No, I was in a busy parking lot after a swim meet and my mother had disappeared somewhere. So I wandered around looking for the car to meet her. I even had a friend with me, helping me search. I couldn't seem to find our van.
I noticed him looking at me next to the dumpster. Of course I thought nothing of it. And when he approached us, there was still no reason to distrust him. Everyone who was still at the pool lived in the neighborhood, and we knew all the families of the swimmers. He must be someone's father. There was no reason at all to think he would lie about knowing where my mother had run off to.
But when he took my hand, then I knew. I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what and couldn't be rude.
I got into the car. I contemplated getting out of the car. I didn't.
I remember the bright red Food Pantry sign when I looked out the window even though he told me to keep my head down.
I remember how he pushed on my back to make sure I really was staying down when i sat up.
I remember that even though he asked for my name, I still let myself believe that he must know who I was.
I remember the streetlights in the lot he pulled into and the hotel windows and the blackness across the street.
I remember the car pulling over, and I remember him telling me to get out. No, yelling at me to get out. And I remember that I tried to get a glimpse of his license plate but he drove away too quickly, and I was left standing under a streetlight across from a silent, empty church.
I remember that I lied to the police, but I don't remember what it was that I didn't want to tell them.
I remember having blocked it all out until I was fourteen and we drove past that hotel and it washed over me like a dream I'd almost forgotten. I remember thinking even then that maybe he really did know me. Maybe he mistook me for someone else.
The only thing I don't remember is whatever it is that makes me so desperately afraid of you.