It was 5 am on one of those rare snowy mornings, and I was walking my dog in the dark, wearing sweatpants and a puffy coat that could pass for a mattress pad.
The beach glowed radioactive beneath the snow and the moon cast an icy blue shadow in the freezing ocean that broke against the shore like slush.
Snowstorms bring out the city’s irreverent side; the beach was an orgy of copulating snowmen and women. It is scenes like this that separate Vancouverites from the Calgarians.
There were a few couples about, mostly male and the odd straggler; I felt safe. But as I was returning from the Inukshuk, I heard whooping and hollering from the top of the hill.
“Hey man, what’s going on?” a male voice shouted.
I could see three silhouettes in the umbra of a pair of headlights. I looked around; I was completely alone. I dug around my pockets for my cell phone. It was at home.
“I’m just walking the dog, dude,” I said, disguising my lisp.
“We think you’re pretty ugly.”
I wanted to say, “Well if I knew I’d be doing runway I would have put my contact lenses in,” but this wasn’t the time to be smart. The “Peeping Tom” defence is just a straight man’s way of saying, “He provoked it.”
“We’re thinking about beating the shit out of you.”
On one side of me loomed the hill they stood on, the seawall lined on the other. If I ran for it, I risked falling in the snow. My only defence was to keep walking and stare into their faces so I could describe them later.
A snowball grazed my coat and splashed into the ocean.
One of them shouted, “Your dog is fucking ugly. We have a German Shepherd that’s gonna kill your dog.”
Then they started throwing snowballs at my dog. I’ve been bashed twice. Each time I’ve been amazed at how quickly and unexpectedly the situation hairpinned from ordinary to violence; dumbfounded by the sound of fist against bone.
Despite those incidents, I’ve never felt particularly vulnerable walking my dog after dark.
This was completely different. I truly feared for my life.
The other times words were exchanged, alcohol was involved. But these guys were hunting. I’m convinced the only thing preventing them from attacking me was they weren’t sure if I was gay. Then, suddenly, there were voices. A couple rounded the corner and the three silhouettes backed off into the car.
That was two years ago. I haven’t been to the beach after dark since. As the saying goes, bad things happen when you’re minding your own business.