Afraid of the Dark–Part B
His car was parked in an unfamiliar lot and I was sitting inside. I was waiting for him to come back and staring around at this corner of the city unknown to me. He’d told me I should just sit here, that he had something to take care of; he’d only be a couple of minutes. I had no reason to doubt him. So I sat patiently, trying to guess where we were.
It seemed this was a parking lot of sorts, well illuminated with glaring streetlights. I wasn’t afraid, rather confused about this strange stop he was making. Bewildered even. Why had he brought me here? He said he was taking me to his place, but as near as I could tell we’d gone in a completely different direction.
“Will you babysit my kids tonight?”
My parents and I lived at 417 Ave F South at the time. For a time we had as next-door neighbors the Paquins, a young Metis couple with several small children. The young mother looked after my little sister Rosie when I was in school, or sometimes they would go out for the evening and I would be asked to babysit their children. Easy job; often the kids were in bed before their parents left.
The Paquins moved away after a year or so, to somewhere around the 1100 block of Ave L South. Then one day after school the husband called and asked me if I would come and babysit their children. Sure. No problem. My parents were going out that evening and I had nothing else to do, so why not earn a couple of dollars. I was nine years old; I could handle it.
He said he’d pick me up around 7 pm. “Okay.”
If you don’t know Saskatoon, Sask, suffice it to say that their new home was south and west of where I lived. Thus I expected when he picked me up we would head in that direction. But we didn’t. He rather headed east toward the downtown area. Before long he stopped at this place, a building with this parking lot, where he stopped and left the car, saying he’d be back.
So there I sat, in the dark looking around and at the overhead street lights, wondering what on earth we were doing there. Surprised, bewildered, confused.
I sat there alone for about five minutes before he came back. When he got back to the car, instead of getting in and taking me to his place, he told me to come with him. This had me even more confused, but I did as I was told.
He led me into a sparsely furnished room where there was only a bed and a dresser. I stepped inside and looked around, wondering what on earth this was all about. Then he shut the door. (In retrospect, it was probably a cheap hotel or rooming house where a person could rent a room for a short time.)
As I said, there was a bed. After standing there a minute he started to tell me about this game he wanted to play, where I’d get on the bed and he’d get on top of me. I’m sure my eyes popped open at the idea of this odd “game” and I started to be afraid. I may have been totally clueless, but to me this didn’t sound like a fun game at all.
A lot of girls may have caught on a lot sooner — especially today’s street-proofed girls — and probably told him in no uncertain terms where to get off. But I was a real wimp back then; also, we were always to listen to our elders. My Mom had said almost nothing about sexual issues — certainly nothing in the line of warning. However, I was feeling serious fear over this strange unknown situation, which led me to do the most logical thing. I started to cry.
I believe to this day that God reached down and turned his mind around. Perhaps his conscience reminded him that this was so wrong — and it might not be the piece of cake he’d initially thought. Maybe it pointed out to him that ten years is a long time to spend behind bars for one foolish prank. And what about his wife and children.
I don’t know exactly how God worked in my favor that night, but really, I was completely at this man’s mercy. He could have done anything to me — and I never would have revealed it to a soul. (I’m sure glad he didn’t know that!)
Finally the man said, “Come on,” and led me back to his car. We got in and he drove me, not to his home, but back to my own. By now I realized this babysitting thing was all a hoax. He walked me to the door of my house, maybe to see if my folks were home and he was in trouble plenty?
But my parents were still away; the house was dark and empty. Then he held up two quarters, offering them to me so that I wouldn’t tell my parents.
Two quarters! For what he’d put me through? Oh, was I mad! With an angry slap I knocked the coins out of his fingers. They fell on the floor somewhere and I went into the house.
I never saw him again, and I never did tell my parents. I didn’t expect any sympathy from them; I was afraid my Dad would be angry and scold me for being so stupid as to get into such a situation. Even if the very worst had happened to me that night I never would have told my parents. I was more afraid of my dad than anyone else.
But as an adult, when I’ve thought back to that situation, I could picture that neighbor spending the next few days antsy and sweating, waiting for the cops to show up and question him about what happened that night.
So I was Mad, but Not Damaged, Right?
Yes, I remembered the incident clearly and I came away from it with a certain anger, but I never thought it had done me any lasting harm. After all, nothing really happened.
But that night in Montréal, as I looked out the kitchen window at those streetlights and this scene in the parking lot flashed back into my head. And this small voice said very clearly, “That’s why you’re afraid.”
Not afraid because of what didn’t happen, but that bewildered, confused, fearful feeling had left its mark in my mind. The young tree wasn’t broken or ruined but it was kinked by this incident.
And probably the two incidents, the one involving my neighbor and the one involving the predator who followed me that dark night on the same street, eventually merged into one terror.
I’ve learned that God isn’t only a psychiatrist who analyzes your problem and tells you exactly what has caused it and why you feel the way you do. He’s the Great Physician for damaged souls. The Healer. That evening in Montréal, when He revealed to me where my problem started, He also took it away.
I can’t describe the beautiful freedom I felt when God dealt with this chronic fear, this baggage I’d been carrying all those years, living with it because it was simply part of who I was. Like a load of bricks on your back that suddenly turns to dust and blows away, so it was gone! A week later I marveled even more as I walked home from our friends’ house, about five blocks in the dark, at 11pm and didn’t feel the slightest trace of fear.
Yes, I’m still prudent and don’t expose myself to unnecessary danger. Yes, I still look in the back of my car before I get in. But that heart-stopping, paralyzing fear has never come back.