Afraid


You will never make me afraid again.
That’s what I told myself
When I walked home in the dark
When you honked at me
When you called me beautiful
When you followed me.
When you got in my face in NYC and said “Boo.”
When I walked off the metro in the middle of the night.

When I flew in at night
Nervous from the minute my flight was delayed
And delayed again
Because I knew I’d be taking the metro through that part of town
Where people died
And getting off at a college campus
At midnight.

I sat in a corner
Reading
My backpack on the seat beside me.
I always felt safer with mace.
But I’d just come from the airport.
And you expect an 5’1” 18 year old girl
To take care of herself
With a key.

You sat behind me
And I tried to be polite
Even when you were interrupting me
Repeatedly.
Finally you got off.

And then you all got on.
Loud, uncaring.
I envied the driver locked in her box.
I felt guilty for being scared.
Because not all men-

Two more stops to go…
I prayed quietly. So far so good.

I knew I was fine. I knew you were just trying to get a rise out of me.
But there was a lot of you.
I got off and didn’t look back.
I heard you laugh
“Grab her, grab her,”
And I tried to stay calm
But I saw the girl who got off just before me start to walk faster
And I thought
“Oh crap,
I could get raped tonight.”
It was only a split second thought.
But it was there and I was scared.

I watched the girl walk straight into a car and drive away.
My ride wasn’t there.
I kept walking like I had purpose.
You were just jerks that got a rise out of making people afraid.

I was so happy that there were metro police at that stop.
I wondered
Were they waiting?
Had the driver in her locked glass box called them in?
I don’t know.
But I went and sat by some bushes, where I could watch for my ride and hide if I saw anyone get off the next train at midnight.
My ride came.
I was home safe in fifteen minutes.

I waited over a year to tell my mom and my sister
Because I felt stupid
For being afraid
For thinking that would actually happen to me.
But a few months after the fear
Someone was arrested
On that metro
He had a gun sticking out of his pants.
And I wondered.
What if…

What if that had been me.

I’ve been lucky.
I’ve been privileged.
People have died on that train
In that uber
Fifteen feet from the emergency call box on that college campus.
People have been raped
Molested
Lied to.
Abused.
Sometimes I feel guilty
For getting off easy
For being lucky
For being safe.
For talking about
How I came out unscathed.
Except for being scared.

What right do I have to talk about fear when
I haven’t lived through the horror.
So I didn’t talk about the fear
Because nothing happened
It was nothing
But
You made me scared.
You had no right to take my freedom of security from me.
Who do you think you are?
I have been scared so many times since then.
Some days
Weeks
months
A year
I have lived in fear
And I know I will be afraid again.
But
There is enough fear in life from things I can’t control
Things I can’t fix
Poverty and death and injustice
That I realized there were some things
I wouldn’t live in fear from.

So
Whatever it takes
You will never make me afraid again.

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