I don’t know what overtook me. A small part of me, exhausted by every injustice in this world, wanted to believe that nothing was really like that. Today was one of those days that I just wanted to “forget” everything away.
I walked to the movie theater, alone, at 9:35PM. When I walked out after the movie was over, I felt overcome by the darkness. I glanced at my cellphone’s dim glow. 11:45PM. Before I even took a step out, I made a mental count of all the people in my sight: three men loitering in front of the BART station, two elderly men waiting for the bus, a couple walking past, and two women crossing the street. I tried to walk right behind the couple, headed towards the same direction, but I eventually ended up walking past the three men by myself. I felt myself shrinking inside and my gaze fell to the ground. Were they looking at me? I’m trying to be inconspicuous Did they see me? Why did one of them turn around? Oh no. He’s following me. Why is he walking this way? Where’s he going? I tried to assess which way was the brightest, the busiest road. I turned around after I had scurried across the street. He was gone. That was only the beginning.
The darkness feels moist and wet against my skin, stifling and enveloping my goosebumped arms. Red. That’s the color that flashes before my eyes amidst the glaring car headlights and silent rustles against the trees.
I must have looked over my shoulder at least fifty times on the 10-min walk back. I had 911 pulled up on my phone, just one touch away from calling. No music, so that I could hear the slightest movement or footstep. I walked in the center of the sidewalk — not too close to the road so that cars couldn’t snatch me off the street but also not too close to the dark, amorphous bushes. I would cross onto the other side or take wide berths around random men that happened to share my sidewalk. They were probably offended. I don’t care. I only very briefly considered crossing through campus, but one look at the dimly lit roads and images of trafficked, bloody, battered women flashed through my mind. No. Definitely not. I took the brighter, longer way home. Every door crevice and porch was a potential place that people could hide. Every car parked on the street potentially harbored a kidnapper. I wish I had a pepper spray. At one point, I realized that I had been holding my breath and nearly choked myself coughing. I kept playing worst case scenarios in my mind. My head could be bashed into this sidewalk and a hand held down over my mouth to keep me from screaming. And no one would know. No one would know that I was missing. It was a terrifying thought. I didn’t let my guard down until the front door had been locked and bolted.
Paranoid? Not really. I’m just another woman, alone on the street.