One of the first rules of self defense is never let yourself become surrounded. So, how had I let this happen?
Maybe it was because they gathered slowly, one or two here and then a few more there. And suddenly I realized I was surrounded by people who definitely weren’t like me.
Now, my stomach is uneasy and my palms are damp. I’m feeling unsure of myself, and I’m second guessing the decisions that brought me to this spot at this time.
They don’t act like their attention is honing in on me, but I sense glances in my direction. I feel an undercurrent of whispers and wonder if they are about me.
Survival instincts have me looking for an escape route before, I imagine, they can morph from a disorganized crowd to a single-minded gang that could easily turn on me, the outsider. But, as I glance around I realize there is no escape route. I am surrounded and will have to stay put for now.
There are lots of similarities in the manner of dress in the crowd, the kind of similarities, I imagine, that could possibly be seen in a gang!
Then I sense someone new close-by — there is no question that the person who has just arrived is the leader. Obviously older, his confident swagger labels him as someone accustomed to being in charge — accustomed to others listening to what he says.
He starts to talk and all other conversation stops and all turn to listen. I’m still uneasy and have a quick thought that all it would take for my worst fears to be realized would be for him to give the word to “reject the outsider!” and it would be all over for me.
But, as he starts to speak, he seems calm, reasonable, articulate. And, what he’s saying doesn’t even mention me! I begin to relax. Maybe I’ve misjudged this crowd. Maybe they don’t see it as a bad thing to have an obvious outsider in their midst.
By the time the leader finishes his rapid-fire, mesmerizing talk, an escape route seems less necessary to me. Surprising myself, I have become much less anxious about the people who surround me, as well as their leader, and I’m not as eager to get away from them.
By the end, some of the crowd have actually introduced themselves to me and ask me questions about myself that seem to indicate a beginning of acceptance. Maybe this is a crowd I could even enjoy being around! To my relief, they seem nice and possibly willing to include me, even though they and I obviously have major differences in our lifestyle and perspective.
Remarkably, this was an experience that started out with much apprehension for me, but has turned out very well in the end. I may even have to come back to this spot again in hopes of running into some of my newfound friends again. In fact, I think I’ll come back to this exact same spot at the exact same time next week, and see if they’re here. I’m surprisingly looking forward to that prospect. And, besides, I think their leader is a very knowledgable character, who I’m pretty sure would be interesting to listen to on a regular basis. I can see why he’s a leader.
Thus went my first day of Fiction Writing class at the local Christian college, as the only student in the class over the age of 25.