Comfort Food

By: Kitty Thomas

The first day of my captivity was like being born . . . or dying. They're both kind of the same thing with the long tunnel and the bright light at the end. Maybe it wasn't like either, actually. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong because for me that day all there was, was darkness.

I was blindfolded, sitting in a hard metal chair, with each of my legs bound to a chair leg and my arms tied up behind me. The sharpest bit of sensory input I had was the silence. It was a suffocating blanket from which there was no escape. Unless I started talking just to hear my own voice, a desperation I refused to display in the first five minutes of consciousness.

I remember thinking this was how spy movies often started, with sensory deprivation: the first step to get the prisoner to spill his secrets. I had no secrets. I was an open book, and maybe that was the problem. I was a minor celebrity on the public-speaking circuit, self-assured, articulate. The poster-girl for everything others wished they could become. Not a threat to anyone really.

I'd written a few books and had started to grow a following of loyal devotees. Someone would notice I was missing, at least by the time my next speaking engagement rolled around in a couple of weeks.

The day had started at one such engagement. A very nice luncheon, in a very nice restaurant in downtown Atlanta had been booked for the event. I usually started and ended my book tours in Atlanta because it was close to my home in the suburbs.

The audience was mostly comprised of women, my primary demographic, though I'd never set out to become some voice of women. There was a smattering of men, but I wasn't paying much attention.

Women go through their lives a bit differently than men. We're always cautious. It's not that we live in abject terror twenty-four hours a day thinking some random man is going to come along and rape or kill us. Only the most neurotic of us think that way.

Still, you never know what kind of wacko out there has become fixated on you. And despite all the empowering speeches and the women's movement, in the grand scheme . . . women are prey.

This was the place I was at, the almost complete denial it had happened to me. Me, who is always so careful. Locks her doors, doesn't walk or jog with ear buds in her ears, doesn't take candy from strangers in vans. You know the drill.

I was listening to the silence and wondering how the hell this could be happening. Other things were running through my mind as well. Things that had me hoping maybe I did have some government secret and once I shared it, I could go on my merry way.

Rape. Death. Dismemberment. Maybe in that order, maybe not. Though that order would be preferable to Dismemberment. Rape. Death. Or Rape. Dismemberment. Death. You always want your dismemberment to happen after the death.

Death first would be the absolute best-case scenario. I'd seen enough woman-in-peril movies, and I was no MacGyver. I didn't really have any kind of ballpoint pens on me that I could somehow get out of a pocket and turn into a ballistic missile.

My mistake was a stupid one. I'd left my drink unattended. Men never have to worry about this shit. I guess because statistically speaking there are fewer female psychos stalking men than the opposite, and most confrontations between men are pretty straightforward.

Like all women raised in the current climate of fear and loathing of men, I was taught never to leave my drink unattended. All women know this. We do. Even if we aren't explicitly told, it seems to come with the packaging and wiring of being female. Just common sense in the age of the date rape drug. Expecting even the most sensitive male to truly understand any of this is like expecting a wolf to understand the finer points of being a rabbit.

Still. We seem to think there are exceptions. Like my luncheon.

There are no exceptions. If there were, I wouldn't be sitting tied to a chair listening to the questionably comforting sound of my breath going in and out.

I couldn't stop thinking about how my parents were going to react to all this. My sister, Katie, had died several years ago in an accident. She was deaf and hadn't heard the car barreling around the curve. The driver wasn't used to ice on the road. No one in the south is. My parents hadn't spoken about her in years because they couldn't deal with it. I couldn't imagine how they'd cope with my disappearance and wondered if they'd curse God for doing this shit to them twice in a row.

The door creaked open then, exactly like doors do in scary movies. At least now I knew what kind of story I was in, no sense fooling myself about it. The sound of his boots echoed eerily loud on the concrete floor as he approached me. He stopped maybe a couple of feet away as the silence stretched on for a small eternity. Finally, I felt compelled to speak.

“Why are you doing this?” My voice shook when I said it, and I hated that. I sounded weak. I'd never sounded weak before in my life.

It was such a cliché question. If these were to be my last words, they felt like stupid and unimportant ones, but I had to know. Why had he taken me? Did I send out a vibe or was he just obsessed? Was there something about me that screamed Victim?

I'd always tried to give the impression that I wasn't easy prey. I'd been fooling myself. It had been ridiculously easy for him to take me.

Then again, maybe I was being all wrong-headed in assuming right from the start my captor was male. Theoretically, it could just as easily have been a woman.