There is a man who lives in my apartment building who, in two ways, frightens me. Most of the time when I see him he is overtly hostile to me, sometimes making rude comments about either my disability or my weight. I brace myself when ever I see him get off the elevator, or when he's waiting in the lobby as I get off the elevator. Mostly he just glares at me are points at me and rolls his eyes. I've been the brunt of this kind of thing all my life, in one form or another, and have learned some coping skills to deal with his toxicity. He's mean. I get that.
Oddly, with what I'm about to say, this is how I prefer him. I prefer the predictable hateful guy, who makes predictably cruel remarks or engages in a kind of tiresome, routine, boringly repetitive nastiness that can be predicted on sight. I prefer him this way. Even though deep inside I find the sight of him disturbing and somewhat frightening. I can deal with this level of fear.
I had heard, from someone who wanted me to understand that his behaviour is because he's had it tough, that he was an alcoholic who had been sober for several years. There was more to the story but I need not tell it here. I get that people have had it bad, I don't get the idea that this gives permission to be randomly mean to other people.
Well, his sobriety ended a few weeks ago.
Now he's less predictable. When he gets off the elevator, and he's been drinking, he lumbers over to me, leans in and in a very patronizing way attempts to be friendly to me. He gets so close that the alcohol in his breath burns off the hair in my nose. "How ya doing, buddy?" is his most common greeting. I back away from him, he doesn't notice, nor does he notice that I don't answer, he expects the same kind of response to his friendliness from me as he would one of the pets who lives in the building. A look, a back away, and that's it.
This guy frightens me even more. His friendliness, I figure, can turn into hostility in a second. The lurching unpredictability of his mood and his manner has me fearing for my safety in a new and different way.
As he's done nothing that's actually reportable, or considered particularly notable by the powers that be, it's up to me to come up with strategies to deal with our random meetings. And that's what I'm doing. I'm developing ways to be safe in potentially dangerous circumstances. I'm actually pretty good at this, I'm feeling confident.
Creating safety in unsafe situations is something that people with differences need to be good at. It's a skill. It can be learned and it can be taught. And it should be, because, gosh, it's a skill I use over and over and over again.