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Spooky Sunday morning encounter in an empty downtown

Downtown Medford is empty Sunday mornings, I have learned.

Most residents must be attending services or sleeping in, maybe spending time with their families.

I planned to visit my nontraditional church, the library, on a Sunday morning this summer to work on my science-fiction series. Unfortunately, I was an hour early. My ride had left, so I wandered to the nearest coffee shop. Closed, too. Ten a.m. is too early for a Sunday, apparently. Someplace had to be open. I walked up Riverside to Main, hoping one of the restaurants was open. Burger Spot, closed. Creekside, closed.

Before I made it back to Central, a man in a truck pulled up beside me. “Hey, do you want to learn how to drive?” he asked out through his window.

What? I wondered. “No, thanks.” I replied.

“You don’t want to learn how to drive?” He pressed.

“No.” I repeated, and continued walking.

The truck followed me. “I could teach you how.”

By this point, I began to realize humanitarianism was not motivating this random exchange. “No, thank you. I already know how,” I stated clearly.

The truck drove past me, then swerved haphazardly into a parallel parking space 50 feet ahead and stopped. I widened my berth.

“Do you smoke?” the man diverged.

Why isn’t he leaving me alone? “No,” I said.

“Would you like to? I have some. Get in and we can go somewhere.” His intentions became all too apparent, and I weighed my options. He’s about my height, and not very muscular. I bet I could fight him off if he tried to grab me.

“I’m not going to do that. Leave me alone.” Politeness went out the window. In a panic, I veered away from the intersection toward the Craterian. If I could get indoors create a barrier of some kind I might discourage his pursuit.

Of course, the Craterian was closed.

I pulled out my phone and called my domestic partner to let someone know what was happening. My partner offered to pick me up just as the man in the truck sped down Central. Afraid he might loop around, I stayed on the phone while I sought a temporary safehouse.

Yet another coffee shop up Central was closed. My legs were anxious to run. There was only one possibility left. I hustled around the corner of the building and noticed a customer the first bystander in 30 minutes exiting the Starbucks near the playground at the Commons.

Finally! I ran in, ordered something anything and sat down to immerse myself in the security of being in a public space. Paranoid and unsettled, I debated how I might have attracted this unwanted attention. My ensemble was slack, and my hygiene was unkempt. Nothing I did invited harassment. Downtown Medford had always seemed like a relatively harmless place during the day. Unfortunate coincidence? Isolated incidence? I doubt it. Maybe Sunday is different.

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