I was walking back from town this week and it was raining. I was nearly home, ready to turn the corner into the walkway to my house and I was probably walking a little faster than normal to try and minimise the almost unavoidable rain-hair-frizz-grease thing. I was also wearing my big brown boots and carrying three bags of heavy groceries. This was a mission. So there I was, within smelling distance of Kenny’s room, when the woman in front of me quickly turned her head to look at me – smiled apologetically – and continued walking.
I think she was scared that I was someone who might hurt her.
Whenever I walk in the dark I keep my head down and walk fast. When I hear someone behind me it does freak me out – because every day we hear horror stories of vulnerable people being assaulted by total strangers. I can’t tell you how much it felt like a slap around the face when that woman turned around. Not because I was surprised or offended, but because this woman must have been forty years old. When I picture myself at forty the last thing I see is vulnerability. And yet, the look on her face showed exactly that, and there is absolutely no reason why in twenty years I will be any different.
Sometimes I genuinely wish I looked like my father- that is an active thought that goes through my head when I’m walking back from the station at night. I’ll be stepping off of the train and willing myself to grow a foot taller, sprout a big black beard and for my eyes to change from mouldy green into ones that can kill you with just a glance. And then there’s that thing where you can’t put headphones in to listen to music to distract you because you won’t hear anyone who tries to come at you from behind – but with no music it just makes the journey longer and your hear every single footprint within a two mile radius and each one is sent to beat you up. Girls who listen to music in the dark – stupid or fearless? (or both?)
I was walking back from work one evening, it must have been around quarter to ten – it was winter – so it was black and cold – and I heard footprints behind me. After a few seconds of should I? shouldn’t I? Of course in the end, I decided I should, and I did. I turned around and there was a man carrying an axe. I don’t know how on earth I managed not to scream – instead I picked up my phone and faked what I’m fairly sure was a unconvincingly squeaky ‘hello?’. Anyway the man put the axe in his car and went back into his house. I made it home fine, if a little shaky.
Even today, when I said goodbye to my best friend going back to Germany – who I won’t see again for heaven knows how long – all I wanted to do was listen to Adele and let a few silent tears fall down my cold cheeks (in a very dramatic art sort of way). But then I remembered the axe and instead walked to the slightly less emotional soundtrack of the odd car engine and the high pitched siren the people at number forty-nine employ to keep away teenagers.
One of my best friends at school was crazy good at karate. She told me she had dreams where people would break into her house to attack her family and she’d beat them up. I’ve always thought that was wonderful – being so secure in your safety that even in your dreams you’d destroy any kind of threat. There are always exceptions – but I don’t think vulnerability is a surface thing. It’s a confidence thing. And I am confident that by the time I’m forty I will be able to listen to Adele WHENEVER I want to. I am going to learn how to properly protect myself – because I’m not being that woman that turned around to me.
I don’t want to look behind anymore – there’s too much in front of me.