I was 21, a student of archaeology and happy to have landed a summer job on a remote part of northern Norway. The journey north was long and arduous, as I was on my own hauling a massive amount of luggage – as much as I could possibly carry. Not for personal use, it was for work.
I came to a harbour, I don’t recall where, in the pouring rain. A ferry was scheduled to come by a couple of hours later, that was the last part of my journey. The harbour was large and empty, situated away from the town. There was a small building there, a hut for travellers to wait in. I dragged all my bags in and sat down to wait.
A middle aged man was there as I arrived. He greeted me in the thickest northern Norwegian accent I have never heard, and I responded politely. The man kept talking, I barely understood and I had no interest in chatting with this rather unsavory looking person, so I tried to signal disinterest by picking up a book and quietly starting to read.
The man kept talking to me. My replies were still polite, but short as to not encourage further conversation. Not that he cared if I was interested or not.
He started asking me something, it was hard to make out what – his accent was just a garbled mess. He wanted me to do something, but I couldn’t understand what. He walked over to where I was sitting, came to look down on me, and repeated the request over and over. I stared down into my book and tried to ignore him. In the corner of my eye I saw him stick a hand into his trousers.
He started to jerk off, right there, with his groin next to my face.
I stared at my book.
The moment he backed away a bit I stood up, grabbed my many bags, and hurried outside. The rain was still pouring down but that mattered little. I sat down on a bench, within seconds freezing cold and soaked through by the rain, and with shaking hands grabbed my phone. For some odd reason I didn’t even think to call the police, no. I called my boyfriend, now my husband, and asked him to please just be with me on the phone for a while, as a safety precaution.
I sat in the heavy cold rain for two hours until the ferry came. The disgusting man in the building behind I never saw again.
Afterwards a load of good options were obvious. I should have called the police. I should have punched the bastard in the balls when he started masturbating. I should have, I should have, I should have. But I couldn’t. At the very moment it was happening, I couldn’t. There was only one thought running through me – don’t provoke him. Ignore. Be boring. Don’t provoke potential violence. He might have a knife, he might be violent, who knows? Stay still, don’t look. We were alone in the middle of nowhere, if something serious were to happen I’d be completely lost. So I stayed motionless.
I was lucky, he didn’t actually touch me. Nonetheless the memory still has a nauseatingly sharp burn. And you know what? I feel ashamed. So many women have suffered far worse, and here I am crying about a man who didn’t even touch me. I am ashamed that I couldn’t just handle the situation better, that I just sat there like a dumb fool and waited for it to end. I am ashamed that I didn’t even think to call the police.
There are no good words to end this post with, so I’ll just stop.