Woozy. I slowly awake from the dark of unconsciousness. I’m shivering and curled into a fetal position on the walking trail that cuts through Rochester Park, twenty-some miles north of Detroit.
I grip myself with my clammy hands.
Naked, head to toe.
A shot of anxiety ripples through my body and shakes my core.
Oh my God.
Goosebumps cover my nude, wan body. My cargo shorts, shirt, wallet, house keys, phone, watch… all stripped from me and gone. Naked as the day I was born. And as my hands grasp my chilled body in the evening’s dying sunlight, I feel a thin layer of strange film covering me.
Quick, need to find shelter in the nearest cluster of trees.
I stagger over and crouch behind a pocket of towering maples near the tranquil Paint Creek, praying that no passers-by witness me in this condition. Cowering a bit more out of sight, my situation burrows into my brain and now fear fully grips me.
Have I been drugged? Robbed? Raped? My stomach turns queasy at the thought of any of these horrors.
I need help. Now. Yet I’m too self-conscious to streak naked across a popular suburban park in search of someone with a phone. Especially with a playground likely populated with children in the center of it. I know how people are. They’ll whip out their phones, guffaw, and snap photos of the crazy nudie man to share with their buddies on Facebook. My reputation would be ruined. My wife embarrassed. My sons humiliated.
So, I crouch here and wait, flustered, my mind reeling at a hundred miles per second. Twigs scrape against my backside; tiny jagged stones poke the bottom of my bare feet. My legs are tightly closed, squeezing back my private junk into a thigh-enshrouded hideaway as much as possible. A breeze now kicks up and I feel chilly on my bare back.
It’s July 9th!
I wait in nature’s cubby behind these trees as each minute ticks off like hours.
I silently thank God no walker, jogger or biker has passed by to get the shock – or laugh – of their week.
My teeth chatter. Is it really this chilly outside, or is my fear causing me to shiver like this? It must be fear. It was at least eighty degrees coupled with some uncomfortable humidity out here when I started my stroll.
I wait, not entirely sure what’s next on my game plan. My relief that no pedestrians have wandered by now turns to despair at this loneliness. I actually wouldn’t mind a wayward and hopefully mature individual to walk on by, lending a hand in distress. And a full set of clothing.
It’s gradually getting lighter out.
Yes, the sun has broken the horizon. Which makes absolutely no sense.
It’s evening, isn’t it?
No, it’s morning.
In my disorientation, I failed to realize the sun’s rays were blasting up from the east, not the west. I’ve been balled up naked on the ground all night long.
This sets me off.
I wail at no one in particular.
“Help! Help me, someone! Help!”
I do this repeatedly. Shouting at the top of my lungs. At this point, I don’t care about soccer moms’ smartphones or snickering teenagers. Something terrible has happened to me, no question about it. I’ve been manipulated, injected, penetrated, or something else awful. I try to block out dark scenarios in my mind, but it’s no use. I’ve been physically and mentally vulnerable for over twelve hours, my thin shield of clothing having been removed and stolen from me.
More minutes pass.
Wait, I see someone. Finally. Thank God almighty.
An older spectacles-wearing woman, aged well into her sixties and wearing a blue-ish floral design dress, scampers out from beyond the path. I assume she’s wandered in from the adjacent neighborhood about a hundred yards yonder.
I call out: “Ma’am, I’ve been stripped and robbed! Please call the police.”
She catches my eyes, gasps, holds up the “wait a minute” index finger, then turns and scuttles back from where she came.
I breathe a short sigh of relief. If I were to be caught naked and stranded out here, I’d rather a grandmotherly figure cross my path than some roving band of texting kids. But the relief doesn’t last too long… My nerves are still on high alert as I have no idea what befell me during my walk a little while ago. Or yesterday evening, actually. I feel violated by something unseen and unknown. And it’s scaring the living bejezus out of me.
I grow impatient.
What’s taking her so long?
I again notice the air’s chill. Feels somewhere around fifty-five degrees, no humidity. Yet I recall the weather forecast called for something humid and sultry. I don’t get it. That iPhone weather app couldn’t have been that wrong.
Here comes the woman again, walking briskly toward me and holding a pale-yellow beach towel. I sigh another breath of relief.
“Here young man,” she says and helps wrap the towel around me. The protective feel of that soft cottony material enveloping me instantly lifts my spirits, if only modestly. Half my legs and my entire chest are still exposed, but all butt cheeks and balls are safely hidden again. Unless there’s a hidden photographer in those bushes, I’m officially safe from any social media humiliation.
“Thank you so much,” I tell her.
“I called the police,” she said. “Come with me.”