Not All Men

I’m walking, earphones in and music on,

singing my favourite songs,

lost in the lyrics and the verse.

I see a guy walking slowly in my direction,

probably just passing by, minding his own business.

But I pause my music anyway,

just in case, just to be safe.

And the silence in my ears, allows me to hear my heart beat:

It echoes, quickening with his every step,

loud and harsh and pounding.

He’s within arms reach and now it’s jumping out of my chest.

I hold my breathe,

he passes and i breathe a sigh of relief,

pause for a second, whilst I unpause my music,

and continue.


A few streets later and I hear a car slowing behind me,

again.

I stop the symphonies and quickly glance over my shoulder.

Not a man in a white van, but a man in vehicle and likely a man with some twisted plan,

so just as threatening and just as heart racing.

My breathing, like my heart, is now loud and heavy as he rolls slowly along.

And I’m so focused on getting out,

safe and alone, untouched and unharmed,

that I don’t even realise until he whizzes past,

that he was only slowing to give way to the car ahead,

to make space for them to pass.

I breathe, shake my head

and continue.


The next time a guy is walking slowly towards me in this same sequence,

I smile, ‘not all men’ I think,

not wanting to stereotype and not wanting to run straight into fight or flight.

So I smile, friendly but not too friendly,

in fact I don’t even want to show my teeth.

I quickly close my mouth keeping it clenched tight and clasped shut and force a smile.

This way I’m not too open you see – ready

I smile, friendly, just not too friendly.

only giving light eye contact.

But it really seems this is all he needs as he grabs his ticket of entitlement and starts to board the train.

It begins first the carriage of compliments,

degrading of course.

Then the cat-calling carriage, verging verbal abuse,

and when I reject these advancements, if you can call them that,

I’m transformed into a stuck-up-bitch-who-was-never-that-pretty-anyway.

He shoves past,

my heart racing and I rack my brain,

because yes I smiled, friendly but not too friendly,

I mean I didn’t show teeth and I didn’t hold his gaze,

but clearly he still thought I was interested,

or maybe he just felt entitled.


Mental note to self, I think, and engrave in my mind,

next time,

don’t even smile.


Get off the back streets, I think,

after that interference.

I make a vow to myself to stay in the light, especially at night,

bright and busy roads.

But there are pros and cons of everything,

and i’m greeted with, not symphonies in my earphones,

but symphonies of car horns and sleazy wagging tongues hanging out of car windows,

and I’m not talking about the dogs on the backseats.

I’m talking about the ones steering the wheel,

calling the cats.

I’m greeted with comments about my bouncing body parts,

breasts and batty, bums and boobs,

a whole range of colourful language,

vivid descriptions of my parts in depth,

in explicit detail,

as though i am blind and do not see my naked body in the mirror

every single day.

I’m sure you can imagine, I know you can recall, I know you know what it’s like,

or maybe, you don’t – lucky you.


And this is why I tell myself,

stick to the backstreets.

Less cars and less attention,

but when the creepy guy takes my smile the wrong way and follows me for a few streets,

whilst I clutch my rape alarm through sweaty palms,

in deep pockets,

I’m left wishing for more cars and some attention.


So yes,

I understand,

not all men, not always.

But always enough to make me question all men, doubt all men and even doubt myself

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