The door closes behind me. As I step outside, the cold air whips across my face. It’s quiet. It’s the kind of quiet that warrants wandering thoughts and a focused gaze. I place my left hand in my pocket. My lanyard is where it’s supposed to be and attached to it is the pepper spray I acquired after a less than savory encounter outside a bar the week before. I unlock the tab and grip the apparatus in my fist, with my finger on the trigger, ready to use it if the need to do so should arise.
I start moving my legs back and forth, for some reason while thinking about what I would do if my legs were suddenly taken out from under me. I hear stories on the news almost every day of women being attacked at night. Though I’m painfully aware it would be more likely to be attacked by someone I know, I cannot help but be over-aware of my surroundings. I never mentally prepared myself for the possibility of becoming a part of that statistic.
I cross the street. The wind feels like it won’t subside even a little bit on this short walk. I get to the other side of the road. I cross again to a grassy field. I move my eyes side to side, but not my head. I must look like I’m focused and aware of my surroundings. You’re not as susceptible to attacks this way. I learned this information in a manifesto of a convicted rapist.
He gave tips to readers on how to avoid an attack, as statistically, most attackers are multiple time offenders and will use similar methods and repeat them. Never wear loose clothing that can be easily yanked. Wear hair tightly up in a bun or wear it short. A ponytail or long hair can be easily grabbed. Never look down or at a phone. This shows you’re distracted and can be easily overpowered. I take these points into consideration and I continue on my way. I’m about five minutes away from my house. Halfway there.
The wind hits the trees and in my state of heightened adrenaline I stop. I jerk my head around to the right, then the left. I realize I’m still alone. I’m safe for now. I continue towards the next street, my pace becoming increasingly brisker and my breathing becoming as powerful as the breeze around me. I stop, look both ways and cross, never removing my finger from the pepper spray’s trigger or loosening my grip. The streetlights are just bright enough to where I cannot see far ahead into the poorly lit parking lot I must cross.
The tempo of my feet slows down as my eyes adjust. There aren’t many cars parked in the lot as it is around two in the morning. This does not stop me from being on edge. I pass a string of bushes. Even though we as women are told that ninety three percent of attacks are committed by people who know the victim, and that the strange man jumping out of the bushes narrative is very rare, I still find myself searching through the foliage with my peripheral vision, pepper spray clutched in hand. Because I could easily become part of that last seven percent.
My heart jumps out of my chest. My balance is almost compromised due to the rate of my blood pumping through my body and the many terrifying ideas of what could have just happened. It’s just the wind. My grip on the pepper spray tightens as my heart palpitates. What if it was a strange person, or even one I knew in the bushes ready to attack me?
I continue moving across the lot at a much quicker pace than before. My thoughts are racing. What if someone is lurking in the archway over there? What if someone is in their car, waiting for me to pass so they can overpower me? Thousands of questions like this flood my mind as I finally pass the cluster of cars. But I realize I am still alone. I am safe for now.
I’m now only a few yards away from my porch. By this point, my palms are sweating, my heart is racing and my stomach feels like it’s going to burst. What if something did happen? What if I had to call my poor father and let him know that his precious little girl was attacked? What if I was asked all of those idiotic questions about what I was wearing or how I could have avoided it?
Why would you be out so late by yourself? Why couldn't you wait until the morning to leave? Why were you simply existing when you were attacked? As I finally step onto my porch and take out my key, I glance behind.
I’m safe for one more night.