A Love Letter To My Attacker:

Dear Sir, I just wanted to say thank you. I know we only spoke briefly, but I did appreciate your offer to walk beside me. Too often people rush by each other without so much as a smile. So to me, this was an opportunity to get to know a fellow human being.

We chatted about life, about how my role as a mommy keeps me from getting out on the town. When I asked if you had children, you said you “weren’t ready for that.”

You noticed the rose I was carrying home and suggested I sprinkle salt in the vase to make the bloom last longer. You were a polite conversationalist, so I didn’t notice you scanning the street for witnesses.

Instead of parting ways, you chose to grab my purse. The force of your yanking spun me around and we were face to face.

Maybe you didn’t expect my purse to be strapped across my body, under my coat. Maybe you didn’t expect me to glare at you, as a mother would, when her child is misbehaving. But when I firmly stated that you would not be taking my purse, you simply stared at me.

I’m not sure how the rest unfolded – it’s just a big, violent blur. I do remember you dragging me by the strap, back and forth on the sidewalk. The sound of it finally ripping, after several minutes of assault, is one I will never forget. And then you ran, faster than anyone I have ever seen in my life.

You were gone, swallowed up by an alley, and I lay on the pavement.

My cries brought neighbors out of their beds, cellphones in hand.

I was relieved to see that people still respond to such things, despite the many studies I have read to the contrary. There is still good in this world – thank you for showing me that, however indirectly.

I hated you for a few hours, all through the police report and the tearful ride home with a good Samaritan. But slowly, I began to feel sad for you and your desperation.

Today, I am grateful that I am home, safe and sound. The bruises are tender. My disembodied purse strap sends panic through my veins, lying there with the wilted rose I forgot to tend to.

But thank you.

You gave me the chance to observe myself in survival mode, and then in the stages of grief. You helped me to walk in millions of other shoes, trudging far more treacherous terrain. It was a lesson in violence, trust and recovery.

When the news broke to family and friends, you gave me the opportunity to feel such an outpouring of love and support that I am reminded today of my place in the world.

It took a dark, empty road and a stranger to show me how full and bright my path is, and for that I am grateful.