When I walk alone to the train at night, my mind begins to race. With each step that I take; one foot in front of the other, I think about the moments before my last breath. Will it be tonight? The days on the calendar bring about new opportunities and new experiences…but I fear what these new experiences entail. Some may call me dramatic, but for me this is a normal thought that my brain goes to…and it really shouldn’t be. As the sunlight hibernates and darkness saturates the almost evening sky, I become more cautious than I was before. Every figure begins to distort. The friendliest looking person could be a threat to my safety. When I walk alone to the train at night, I clutch my pepper spray inside my coat pocket. My pace begins to accelerate, and I begin to look behind me every few seconds; left and right. I take one earbud out of my ear so I can hear my surroundings, then I take the other one out because my paranoia gets the best of me. Still, even my senses don’t put me at ease. When I walk alone to the train at night, I think about the last goodbyes that I’ve said to my family. My Dad was working on his construction project in the basement, so he probably wouldn’t have been able to hear me. My Mom was asleep in the kitchen after finishing up dinner. My brother was upstairs, watching YouTube videos and playing video games…that would be the last memory that I would have of them. The last message that I sent to my friends would memorialize me. The videos and pictures saved of me in their phones would be the only way they could see me again, besides the images that they have stored in their memories.
I shouldn’t have to have these thoughts; so morbid and perturbed. The pathway to my destination should be smooth sailing. I shouldn’t have to think about my every move, because one slip up could cost me my life. I shouldn’t have to be on high alert all the time; analyzing every person that crosses my path. Sometimes I wonder if there were any times in my life where I was close…close to being harmed. Has anyone seen me walking down the street and thought that I was a good target? It makes my anxiety rise to an all time peak. What really goes on in the dark?
The Ruth George case really has me thinking. That beautiful young woman had a whole life ahead of her. She had a family that adored her, friends that cherished her, and all of that was taken away just because she didn’t want to converse with a man who was catcalling her. She went to UIC, my parents alma mater; a school that I was thinking of attending. I have walked past the very car park where her murder took place. I just don’t understand how you could kill someone over YOU’RE disrespect. She did not owe you her time, and certainly not her body. How could someone get that angry from rejection? You were so upset that it made you homicidal? How can someone be so evil? All she was doing was walking to her car. How many people have walked to their cars alone at night? That could’ve been anyone, unfortunately it happened to someone, and it happened to her.
The fear is so apparent it’s paralyzing. The prayers that have passed through my lips for my friends, fellow loved ones, and myself I’m afraid will fall flat. The world can be such a beautiful place, but it truly looks like turmoil and tragedy is prevailing. I don’t want it to win. Sex trafficking is real, and it happens all the time, and we are starting to realize how common this crime is. Be smart and be safe; always be aware of the things going on around you. Do what you need to do to protect yourself. Carry pepper spray or maybe even a little pocket knife. Make sure that the blade of the knife is within the law requirements. If tasers are legal in your area, I would keep that on me as well. In Chicago, tasers are illegal unless you have a license in the state. It has gotten to the point where more and more women are getting gun licenses, and I may become one of them. Guns scare me; they always have, but with what is going on, a firearm owner’s identification card doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You should never stunt the lengths of your protection.
I don’t want to be another story on the news; The Chicago Tribune’s first page headliner. I don’t come home for hours, days, weeks, months…maybe I’m never found. I don’t want my family to go through the agony of putting on search parties, passing out flyers, losing half their minds wondering where I’ve gone, only for me to be somewhere with my throat slit inside of a dumpster in an alley way, or strangled in my car, or tossed to the side of the road like a used tissue; battered and bruised. Will they identify me by the red head wrap I wore, or the shoes on my feet that I bought a week before? How will you tell my story? I don’t want my family to have to plan my funeral because I didn’t acknowledge a guy for making an explicit comment about me and my body. I don’t want to be brutally attacked just because my “hello” becomes a response that corrupts your judgement. My kindness should not make me a target to be violated. My silence should not cause you to become irate.