The 60 Seconds I Forgot To Tell You About.


I walked briskly away from  the hotel bellman toward the end of the driveway.  His directions were simple, “At the end of the driveway, walk down the little staircase and cut across the alley real quick.  You’ll see the restaurant on the corner. Can’t miss it.  I could throw a rock and hit it from here.”

He was right, I could see it before I even made it down the stairs.  My sandals clack clacked their way down the cement staircase, but slowed as I approached the bottom.  The alley was quiet… a little stinky… and generally alley-like.

In that moment, I was transported.

My feet slowed while my heart quickened.  Everything in my peripheral vision began to get darker… was God playing with the dimmer?  I strained my eyes toward the lucky-green paint of the restaurant sign ahead.  It moved farther and farther away, like an urban desert mirage.

I willed my feet forward.

I waded through a sudden mire of unwanted memories, and chanted silently in my head, “That was then.  This is now.  That was then.  This is now.”

I caught my breath as I shook away the image of my bedroom light being flicked on by a masked figure ten years ago.

My knuckles whitened as I fought back the memory of thick gloves pushing against my mouth.

I begged my feet to keep moving across the alley…

the alley made of molasses…

the alley in the city I once called home.

Scenes from a decade ago swirled in front of me as I worked my way to the restaurant mirage.



the inside of a pillow case…

my sheets being hauled away by detectives as evidence.

I willed myself to breathe.

I walked.

I struggled to focus on the sound of my sandals.

cah     lack

cah    lack

I felt the hold of the past loosen and I quickened my step.

I jaunted.

I jogged…

the last ten steps into the restaurant.

It was an almost-run…

an almost-run from the shadows tied to my tail…

an almost-run from nothing

to something…

from everything

to something else…

from the assailant that was never caught…

from the feeling of being hunted

to the smiling faces of the long-time friends I agreed to meet…

To the scruffy smiling face of one, and the open arms of another.

To, uncannily enough, the very friends I called a decade ago before I had the sense to call the police.

Then the shadows were gone – a dark surprise I chose to replace with wine, spinach dip, and good conversation.

60 seconds had never felt so long.


A few weeks ago I took a trip to Chicago for a blogging convention.  Chicago used to be my home.  With the exception of the aforementioned 60 seconds, it was an amazing experience.  I spoke on a panel about storytelling, hugged real people, and did a pretty bang up job at being social and gracious.  I loved it.  I almost wasn’t going to tell you about this.  I changed my mind.

There are people everywhere, just like me…

in the grocery store…

on TV…

serving you at a restaurant…

who, for reasons often unknown,

have very small

yet very great

moments of personal bravery.


Lonely dark alley. Background.

jenni chiu sig


PS – If you have never read about what happened to me ten years ago and would like to, I wrote about it once on Violence Unsilenced.




48 responses to “The 60 Seconds I Forgot To Tell You About.”

  1. Debbie A-H says:

    Powerful. Thank you.

  2. chimomwriter says:

    Oh honey. I’m so impressed that you went over there, and thankful that you tell your stories so others don’t feel alone. xo

  3. Tottums says:

    So much love to you. It was so amazing to get to meet you in Chicago – keep your chin up, lady!

  4. gigi says:

    You are amazing. I don’t have any other words than that. (hugs)

  5. Alison says:

    You are one awesome person. And amazing. Hugs and love. xo

  6. annonymous says:

    Thank you for a beautiful and evocative acknowledgement of how it never quite goes away. Walking to the Field Museum with a friend I commented about how “safe” I felt at BlogHer13. She did a double take as if it never even crossed her mind. The oddness for me was not constantly having an extra level of awareness.

    • Jenni Chiu says:

      “…extra level of awareness”
      I know so very much what you mean. I’m glad you experienced the oddness of feeling safe while there. I did as well, for the most part. xoxo

  7. Tricia O. says:

    You are brave. In so many ways.

    Smells that trigger memories are the best and the worst.

    Thank you for sharing.


  8. You are amazing. Love you. xo

  9. Fadra says:

    Amazing in the best and worst possible ways.

  10. tracey says:

    Oh , my heart. Hugging you.

  11. Jackie says:

    Brave. Amazing. Impressive. Honest. All words to describe you but at that moment I’m sure you felt none of them.
    I’m glad that I was able to meet you for a brief moment or two while at BlogHer this year. If not, I would have never found your great blog!

  12. Deb Rox says:

    You are brilliant and amazing in your ability to share what is so very hard to describe but so important to be understood. Deep breath.

  13. I held my breath as I read your words. You transported me to the alley and I felt the fear and the relief when you made it.
    Blessings to you and thank you for sharing your powerful story of bravery!

    • Jenni Chiu says:

      I held my breath writing it – something I do not recommend. Filling the body with breath is much much better.
      Thank you for your kind words.

  14. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.

  15. You are a beautiful writer and person. This was such a brave piece to write! I had no idea this happened in Chicago. *hugs*

  16. Jess says:

    Such a powerful post. You are strong!

  17. Marta says:

    This was powerful and strong like you. I didn’t realize this happened to you in Chicago or that you used to live here. I grew up in Chicago and after 9 years away I live here again. I do the same thing alone in alleyways. In fact I’m certain I’ve written about it but unpublished. Glad you published this.

  18. Donna says:

    Oh my! I have not known you for long so associate you mainly with light, funny pieces — which goes to show you how a sense of humor can coincide with dark experiences. I’m glad you survived the experience in your past and that you did not allow those memories to cloud the fun you had in Chicago.

  19. Stacy Jill says:

    I totally understand how those moments can bring you back in an instant..smells, sounds. 60 seconds can be an eternity. I am so glad the rest of your trip was amazing. Much love to the west coast!

  20. Thank you for writing this. It isn’t necessary for people to come out of the dark and tell us their stories, but I think others are helped to hear that they are not alone. Thank you for telling yours and helping others not feel so alone. And I’m very sorry this happened to you. I cannot imagine what it is to live with the memory, and the knowledge that this asshole was never caught. I am so very sorry.

    • Jenni Chiu says:

      You are so right – it is never “necessary” for people to come out of the dark and share their stories. The bravery is in surviving… for living, and experiencing DESPITE the darkness. Thank you so much for your words.

  21. Lady Jennie says:

    A big hug from way over here.

  22. Debi says:

    I hate knowing that you felt this way even for one second, never mind an entire minute:( I never would have left had I known you would feel this way walking in that alley. You are so brave and amazing but I definitely would have stayed another day just to hold your hand down that alley. So sorry that any of this ever happened to you. LOve you mama.

  23. Darcy Perdu says:

    very moving..thank you for sharing…also went to read the original post you linked at the end of this one…thanks for your bravery

  24. Robbie says:

    Powerful & brave. Thank you for sharing your story.

  25. So so brave. Thank you for sharing.

  26. Aliza says:

    I know you felt alone, but so many people were behind you cheering, I’m sure of it. Way to go, girlie. Was such a pleasure meeting you in Chicago, if only for 45 seconds in the hallway outside a party. 🙂

  27. ardenraine says:

    I am proud of you for sharing this! A lot of my family and friends think that time and therapy and love are magic bullets that can erase all hurt and harm.

    It’s not true. We never know when a moment can shift backwards to the trauma.

    Yet the magic in love, time, therapy is that they arm us with tools to face the darkness in a healing way. To be brave and strong in ways we could not be during the events that created the trauma.

    Thank you for again for illuminating the darkness and leaving shining pebbles for the rest of us.

    It goes without saying, but I am doing it anyway, I love you!

  28. Arnebya says:

    Your courage, determination, and lfiting up of the rest of us is inspiring. Know that. Always. I feel like you’re always moving forward but always reaching back to pull someone else along, glancing back, seeing the past still there but with an I Will Keep Going mentality.

  29. Roshni says:

    I haven’t yet read your other post, but I can quite fathom from your description how much it cost you to walk that small distance. Hugs to you for your bravery!

  30. Diane says:

    Yet another brave and candid post. Thank you for sharing. Each time I read one, I think to myself, there is a way to discuss these things. In the company of others who have dealt with the same. Being brave rewrites some of that story. As painful as it is, it is necessary. Big hugs! And congrats again on the Blogher Voice of the Year!

  31. Andrea says:

    “There are people everywhere, just like me…who, for reasons often unknown, have very small yet very great moments of personal bravery.” Yes. Thank for for acknowledging that, for seeing that, and for sharing your own small but great moment of personal bravery so others can not feel so alone.

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