Simmons pursued Lumet on and off through the years, but the pursuit, in her words, was "lighthearted."
“You were charming and funny and charismatic and self-deprecating,” she said, also describing how Simmons jokingly sent her 250 balloons with a note that read “Please baby, please baby, baby, baby, baby” after a line in a Spike Lee movie.
Simmons told her he had a thing for a “little yellow girl,” referring to Lumen’s complexion. She assumed that his words, much like their banter and light flirting over the years, were harmless.
That is until one night in 1991 when the two met by chance at a restaurant called Indochine.
Simmons had a car and driver with him and offered Lumet a ride. She accepted (again, she’d known him for years and had mutual friends) but, as she said, “‘At no time that night did I say: ‘Russell, I will go home with you,’ or ‘Come home with me,’ or ‘I will have sex with you’ or ‘I have the desire to have sex with you.'”
For reference, in 1991, Simmons would have been 34, a full decade older than Lumet, the granddaughter of the woman he “respected.”
Lumet says she felt the shift the moment she gave the driver directions to where she lived.
“I gave the driver my address on 19th Street and 2nd Avenue'” Lumet said, but that was when things took a turn. As she describes:
You said to the driver: “No.”
I didn’t understand, so I said: “Russell?”
I said, again, to the driver: “19th Street.”
Again you said to the driver: “No.”
Then the car doors locked. It was loud. The noise made me jump.
From there, things only got worse. "I didn't recognize you at that moment," Lumet says, "It was disorienting. It was disorienting. I say it twice now because you said "No" twice then."
This is a statement Lumet repeats throughout the piece. She couldn’t reconcile this new, predatory Simmons with the man who admired her grandmother and sent her red balloons as a joke.
She explains that the whole time, she tried to stay calm so that Simmons wouldn’t become violent. She tried to glance at the driver for help, but he obeyed Simmons’ directives, and she became frightened he would join in what had become a horrific ordeal.
Lumet describes how she felt at the moment they exited the car for Simmons' apartment.
I felt dread. I was tremulous. Off my feet. I felt an intense need to keep both of you calm. Was there a time or a space to run? I have no idea. Would somebody else have run? I have no idea. There were two men. One of whom obeyed the other. It was an overwhelming feeling… I said, “Wait. Wait.” I felt dread. I was very, very sad. I didn’t know if the driver was a further threat, or an ally.
Thankfully, the driver didn’t follow them up. Nevertheless, what followed was horrific.