"Followed and Harrassed at the Park"

There's this nature preserve near me that's tangled in flowers that open like lotuses during the summer. I walk my dog there.

It's Friday. It's been a week of wins. I take my dog out for a walk at the preserve. No one's there. As an autistic person, this is wonderful. I walk my dog along this sunlit path that turns into shadow over boardwalk.

There's a man there. He's hiking in a jacket. It's eighty degrees today. Eighty-two with humidity.

I turn around.

Walking my dog back the way we came, I try to find the part of the trail where ducks congregate, but it's too hot for them. We're walking the last leg of our walk and there he is. The Coat Guy.

"Saw you turn around," he yells at me, "you turn around cause you saw me? You hear me--"

My mind goes French. Everything he says sounds Greek to me and I mumble to my dog, "Il y va."

He repeats: "You turn around cause of me?!"

I walk faster. I notice another car parked next to mine. I mumble to my dog, "Il y va, il y va, il y va."

We get in the car. I don't bother connecting my phone to the radio. The car spits static-y blues as I back up and peel out of the parking lot.

When I moved here, that nature preserve was my favorite spot to walk in the winter. Everything was dead and the pond near the sunlit trail was silver. I loved to walk my dog there.

I walked my dog there. Past tense.

I don't feel safe there anymore.