BY MELANIE VARE
It was 9 o’clock on a warm fall weeknight. I wanted nothing more than to be at home, plopped down in front of Netflix. One final stop — the ATM. Walking back through the empty parking lot, I opened the door to my car, was about to slide inside, but was jerked back, a knife put to my throat.
The man demanded I give him money. I wanted to give him what he wanted. Unfortunately, I was overdrawn. I thought he’d realize I was a lost cause and move on. Instead, he forced me into the driver’s seat and climbed into the backseat directly behind me, keeping the knife to my throat. He instructed me to drive.
He didn’t say a word for blocks. The awkward silence was killing me. I began apologizing: “I’m sorry I don’t have money to give you. It’s just, I’m really bad with it. I’ve already bounced two checks this month. I may look like I have money, but that’s just because I overspend and can’t stay within a budget.”
After letting me ramble without taking a breath, he said, “Yeah, I hear you.”
As I continued to drive for 10 … 15 … 20 minutes, it finally hit me what he might be looking for in lieu of money. I started in on another rant: “Oh my God, you’re not going to rape me are you? Oh, please, don’t! I don’t want to have to go to therapy! I’m a pretty well-adjusted person. My parents are still together. This is totally going screw me up. I don’t want to carry this into my future relationships!”
“Shut up!” He cut me off. “Shut up! Pull into that dark area.”
“No!” I cried. “I know what people do in dark areas.”
“Just shut up and pull over!” he yelled, adding, “I’m not going to hurt you.”
I didn’t believe him until I saw him put away the knife. I pulled in, bracing for what might happen next.
He couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. I clumsily sped off, relief pouring over me.
I was also stunned I got away unharmed; well, aside from his having grabbed my boobs, but who could blame him? I have a nice rack.
Flooring it, I couldn’t help but think of an ex-boyfriend who accused me of talking too much. Hmm, I thought, maybe he was right? This guy didn’t even want to rape me.
The police responded quickly to my call. After telling the officer what happened, he praised me: “Wow, that was quick thinking! That’s amazing how you were able to talk your way out of the situation by humanizing yourself.”
He thought it was some sort of a tactic. I didn’t want to correct him by admitting I might just be really annoying, so I accepted the compliment and went home, exhausted.
After a night filled with horrific nightmares, I woke up distraught. I waited until 6 a.m. to call my mom and dad, because I wanted them to have one final night of sleep before picturing their little girl slashed to pieces. I’d barely said hello when my mom cried, “Oh my God, what happened?”
Suffice to say that within an hour, my dad was at my apartment to escort me back to our hometown.
When we arrived at my parents’ home, my mom ran outside in her pajamas crying. She said, “Come! You have to see all of the emails you’ve gotten!”
Apparently, my mom had sent out a mass email to everyone we know with the subject line: “MELANIE WAS KIDNAPPED, THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!”
But with a subject line like that, I’m glad loved ones didn’t just press “delete.” And as I was reading all of the responses, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. I also noticed that the emails were falling into one of three categories: 1) I’m so sorry this happened; if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask; 2) If the police find this guy, I am going to personally cut off his balls!; 3) That sucks, courtesy of Uncle Bob.
At first I was a little put off by Uncle Bob’s nonchalant response, but it turned out to be the most helpful. It showed me how to be brief.
Meanwhile, a few months after the incident, the detective on my case called to inform me that a man whose fingerprints matched ones found in my car was in custody. This news sent me on a huge adrenaline rush. I felt like the lead story on “Law & Order: SVU.”
Before I knew it, I was sitting in a courtroom, waiting to testify. My heart raced when the guard brought out the defendant. When I saw him, my fear quickly turned to worry. Was that him? I wasn’t sure they had the right guy.
Luckily, my doubts were put to rest when my man in the orange jumpsuit looked into the crowded courtroom, zoned right in on me and rolled his eyes, as if he was annoyed to see me again. He recognized me.
I was nervous as I took the stand. I barely remember a second of it. I do vaguely recall having parts of my testimony stricken from the record … because I talked too much.
Nevertheless, my attacker is now serving 25 years to life.