As I rounded the second stair well my abaya ros (long silky black cloak that sits on your head) caught under my shoe and ripped. I knew it could fly off in a second and everything else with it but I did not care. The face cover I had purchased was cheap and only had a slit for the eyes to peer out, covered by a little piece of material that could be put up or down, much like a curtain. It shifted and covered my left eye making a scratchy back and forth pattern between my two eyes. None of these details mattered much as I hobbled up the cement stairs, 9 month old on my hip, holding my two year old Foof and watching See See. She was now 4 so she walked and ran along side me holding onto my abaya. She whined and questioned me as to why we were running and who this man was who was chasing us. I told her to hold on tightly and continue with me. I looked every few seconds to make sure she was still attached to my coat. I could hear the harrass (doorman and maintenance man) through his nervous giggles trying to reason with the crazed man. He kept repeating in his broken english, “no sir no sir madam lives here sir” but it was quite clear nothing would stop him and his advances. I had no idea who he was or what was happening, the only thing I knew as I continued with this juggling act was that I had to keep us all from falling over my abaya and down the stair well.
It had all started as I approached the door to our building and rifled through my diaper bag for the key to the outer door.The harras approached me and at that time it all began, a man like any other man, nothing to stand out, no mask or obvious marking that would inspire fear, an ordinary man. I could see out of my face cover that he was walking towards the door, nothing to be alarmed about until I heard the clicking of his shoes turn into a faster pace. As I looked for the key he stepped in front of me aggressively, blocking my entrance to the building. At first his words were barely audible as if he were whispering, but when I did not answer they grew louder until he was screaming. He stepped closer with each word he spoke until he had moved away from the door. I took this chance to push every button on the intercom. My children stood behind me except for my baby who turned his head and clung harder to my abaya. I pushed the buttons frantically, my Lebanese neighbor answered and buzzed me into the building.
basic face cover that I wore decorative face covering found in the souk
I started up the three flights of stairs and felt relieved that this man was locked out of the building. As I made it up to the first landing I heard his footsteps and those of the harrass. He was a man in his thirties, able bodied with no children to carry. The only thing that kept him from catching up to us was the well meaning harrass who kept repeating his words regarding my place of residence. I tripped and hung onto a small railing near the stairs feeling much like I was climbing a mountain gripping at rocks and plants along the path. The man stepped in front of me several times and I repeated the same words the harrass had spoken so many times, “What do you want ,I live here!!” The man now spoke in English and told me “Leave my wife alone go away do not come back!!” As I stood at the top of the third floor quite a mess, but safely to my destination, the advances stopped cold and he headed back down the stairs. I found the key, hands trembling and stuck it in the lock. We entered the apartment and fell into a heap in front of the door. A relief came over me, I ripped off my abaya and face cover and comforted the kids who were quite shaken up.
We sat for a few minutes and then it occurred to me that this rampage might just be the beginning. I ran to the kitchen to use the phone ( a recent improvement to the apartment). I dialed him to a friend’s number, something I would not normally do. I told him what had happened and that he needed to come home. I held back tears and tried to speak in a calm and monotone voice as I knew anything else would be taken as hysteria. He didn’t seem alarmed and questioned me about the man, he then let out a hearty laugh. He informed me that this was the man he had met in the building and had spoken of recently. He had strongly suggested that I go and visit a new neighbor downstairs, a newlywed from Syria. She was lonely and it was my duty to welcome her. I made a carrot cake and made my way to her door. I rang and heard movement behind the door but no answer so I returned the next day with the same routine. It was evident at this time, her husband was the crazed man! I was highly agitated that a good deed and a difficult one for me was met with this response. He explained to me that this man must have thought I was an unwelcome intruder and that it was customary to send a message before a first time visit.