It’s close to midnight. I’m walking to the only coffee shop on campus that’s open past 9 pm during the summer. I’m not really paying attention to what’s going on around me, so when I see a guy rolling toward me on his bike, I wordlessly move to other side of the sidewalk so he can pass by. He’s a big guy, blond and fratty. I glance at him as he passes.
“How you doin’ hun?” His voice is low and confident and it chills me to the bone.
I felt violated. He clearly had no intention of actually talking to me. He wasn’t interested in how I was doing. He just wanted to make his presence known. As much as that rankled me, his comment also terrified me. There was no one else in sight. No one would notice if he turned around and came back toward me.
I didn’t run, but I did walk as fast as I possibly could, looking over my shoulder every few steps to make sure that he continued to glide away. I turned on the next street and practically ran two blocks to the coffee shop. Once I was within the warm golden lights of the café, with an iced coffee in hand, I felt safe.
It really shouldn’t be this way. A random guy biking down the street shouldn’t be able to scare me as much as this one did. Even if he didn’t actually mean any harm, there was a chance that he did. Because I’m female, I have been trained to always be careful. I’ve been told that I need to be wary, that I have to watch out, that I’m a potential victim. Last night, I was walking back to my apartment from a friend’s place at around 2:45 in the morning. Despite the fact that I didn’t see a single person, I practically ran home.
I want to be free from all of this. I want to be able to take midnight walks when I need to clear my head. I would love to feel the cool air of early morning without that constant, niggling concern for my safety. I’d rather not constantly eye my fellow travelers when I walk through town after 10 pm.
I want to be free to wander.