He'd often come home and say something like "It's not him. That's Sam White's son, he's only three years older than you." That my dad went each time filled me with an immense sense of safety and control, and after a few years, the sightings stopped and I realized I wouldn't really be able to draw his portrait if I was asked to. I'd been left with a belief in vigilance, and this is, I suppose, the final, mixed lesson of the incident. I notice a lot—how many people are in a room, where the doors are, what the mood is—to the extent that for a while I honestly thought my destiny was to be a spy. It would be really fine with me now and then to turn this habit off and be less vigilant on my way through the world. It's a bit tiring, you know? On the other hand, that vigilance has allowed me to feel very sure of myself, physically, and very confident that I could survive whatever came my way. I'd say that, in a way I'm hard pressed to define, the attack left me feeling safer than I might otherwise have done. When I came across Joseph Conrad's thoughts about how we project our vulnerabilities into the world and signal to others how we can be hurt, I was very taken with his whole theory, and reassured by it, too. I realized that I've chosen to interpret the event as proof that I'm not open to attack, I'm the lucky girl, the one who gets away.

Elaina Richardson left Scotland in 1982. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.


Next Story