“She Was Just Walking Home”

On March 3rd, Sarah Everard, 33 of Clampham, south London, UK left the home of her friends to walk home. She never made it. Police confirmed that the remains found in a woodland area yesterday was hers.

“She was just walking home.”

I remember it was an early summer afternoon, a school day. I was on my way home from the public library; book bag slung over one shoulder, wearing dark jeans, sneakers, a white t-shirt under a red, white and blue plaid with tiny silver metallic threads shirt. I was standing at the curb, under the elevated train tracks, waiting for the traffic signal to change. I noted the car slowly creeping forward as some drivers do when impatiently waiting for a light to change. I was not in the way, I paid no attention to it when I heard a male voice.
“You so pretty, bet you’d be even prettier naked. You should let me see.”
This was from a man, not a peer – not some boy around my age being horrible, but a man. A grown man who in no way could have thought I was an adult. I had not developed boobs yet. There was something about him. Yes, it was broad daylight, but I was at the corner by myself. There nearest person was a half block away in the opposite direction. I remember worrying: Do I wait until he drives off? Is he going to follow me? Do I need to change directions? What if he gets out of that car?

It was the first time I felt danger from a man. I was twelve.

In my twenties I was married with two sons. I went to the laundry every Saturday morning. One Saturday a man entered and decided he wanted to chat. I decided I did not want to. He insisted in asking for my name. I insisted I was married and not interested, so knowing my name was not any of his – good-bye. He showed up again the following Saturday. Clearly this was my neighborhood. I was pissed-offed, but not entirely surprised he suddenly showed up in my local market. I informed my husband, but naturally my wannabe Lothario was no where about the next Saturday at the laundry. As it turned out within the following week, as I was heading toward my building, a friend spotted me and started yelling my name to get my attention. Naturally, I ignored him because I HATE that, worse – guess who I spotted within hearing distance? However, the damage was done as the friend had reached me and it was clear he was yelling for me. The only saving grace was that Bill was exiting the building as I was busy cursing-out the friend out for being an asshole and why. Bill came up from behind, putting his arms around me, and yelled at our friend
“Why the fuck are you screaming out my wife’s name in the middle of the street like that? Have you lost your damn mind?”
At that point Bill saw the guy. He looked me, he looked at guy, he looked at me and I tapped the arm that held me in our code we had for problems. He let go of me and headed in the guy’s direction. Suffice it to say the guy was already backing away at the confirmation that I had a husband and said husband was not an exactly a small guy. I never saw him again. While relieved, it pissed me off anew that the asshole did not accept my rejection. He had followed me. He had my address and because of my asshole friend, had my name. It took seeing my husband’s physical presence before he stopped. I had to wonder were I in fact a single woman how long before I may have been attacked. I wondered if he moved on to another woman who was not as fortunate.

When portable music players became a thing, CDs first, then MP3 players, I learned to keep headphones on my head when so I could pretend I did not hear the nonsense thrown at me when in the street. But I never, ever have music playing in case I needed to deal with someone more aggressive who would not take the hint of simply being ignored. But that does not always help.

In my thirties, I texted my husband to meet me at the train station late one evening after hanging out with friends because of the way a man kept staring at me on the train. I had never contacted my husband with such a request before in all the time we were married. The man had exited the train when I had. He was about to follow me down the stairs when Bill appeared at the foot of them and greeted me. I heard as the man turned and went back up the stairs. Neither of us saw him come down the other side, as far as we could tell, before the stairs were out of sight. But we knew, he was going to follow me.

Twice as a widow in my mid-forties I have gotten off the train and jumped in a cab to ride the four blocks to my home because of that feeling. I will say both times, when I explained the situation, both drivers refused to take my money. All in the name of safety.

Many girls learn from a young age to change their behavior in order to try to feel safe when walking alone, because there are going to be times we will be walking alone. That onus is not on boys as such. Personal safety is a constant self-awareness in our daily lives. One we modify constantly. All in the name of safety.

Do I wear a dress or slacks? Do I wear heels or flats? If I wear heels, do I need to switch to a bigger purse to carry my flats? Questions I must ask each time I go out, in case I have to run. All in the name of safety.

Now in my fifties I don’t go out alone if I think I won’t be home before midnight unless I have taxi money. That also curtails where I go because a late night taxi ride across the City can run me up to $70 on top of whatever expenditures incurred while hanging out. All in the name of safety.

Once, I was meeting my husband for dinner at a friend’s apartment after work. I exited the train and headed towards my destination when I heard whistling behind me. I ignored it and continued walking. It became clear that the whistling was directed at me, coming from someone in a car on the street. I refused to look, because that can be seen as an invitation. A car suddenly turned the corner in front of me and I realized it was my husband and he was pissed I had not responded to him.
“Why didn’t you answer me when I whistled?”
“Do you have ANY idea how often I am whistled at? I can’t afford to so much as look!”
That took him aback.
For even the men that love us, that care about us, that know us, just do not understand, because the constant harassment rarely happens in their presence.

Some men still do not realize we single women share our addresses – or the addresses of the bars/parks/date locations of where we’re going – with each other via text or WhatsApp, to keep ourselves safe. We set up calls with our friends. “If you haven’t heard from me by X time, call me. If I don’t answer, call the police.” It is every female’s right to not fear walking alone; it is not our reality. Being a woman is constant worry for our safety — walking with keys between our fingers, being on high alert always — it is fucking exhausting.

Photo of a female's hand with keys pointed out between fingers.
A tweet yesterday posed this question and response. Its UK based, but it is an question and response known by women globally.

When we hear/read of such attacks we each live with the susurrus that could have been me. So many women have lit up Twitter in the past few days on the many ways they have harassed and/or felt unsafe. And a constant theme throughout many of the tweets were the words “She was just walking home.”

“Not all men” attack but all women experience the fear of it. And we are so, SO DONE with being told we just need to avoid certain streets or areas, don’t be out certain at times or don’t dress a certain way. Sarah Everard was in bright colors, wearing clothes comfortable for walking the less than hour trek to her home. She was simply living her life. “She was just walking home.”

I’m sure Sarah Everard was aware #NotAllMen, also. She was on the phone talking to her boyfriend during part of her trek. She was not attacked by #NotAllMen. The only thing she did wrong was encounter #TheWrongMan. The one who could not respect one fact:

“She was just walking home.”

1 Down 30 More to Go

It’s March and time for the Annual Slice of Life month long writing challenge. A slice of my life each day for today and the next 30 days. It’s the 13th annual challenge: I have participated in several before, but last year I let life get in the way did not even try. Truth be told I had already told a couple of people that I would not this year. Yet here I am.

I am in the process of finishing the final touches for a book of poems that is about fifteen years overdue. The finished product will not be in my hand come the first day of spring as I hoped. It is finally ready to go to an editor which is further than I’ve ever gotten with it before. My next big step after that is the copyright process. I am crossing my fingers to at least have the first galley in hand by the end of April at the latest. Wish me luck!

In the interim I have a couple of out of town trips scheduled in the next few weeks. I should be able to get a few blog posts out of that right? Yes, I am a glutton for punishment to take up this challenge on top of all of this, but it is called a challenge for a reason.

1 down 30 more to go!

It is Day 1 of the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge for 2020. Stop in and see how others are slicing it up!

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To Friends Who Know Me Well

So this conversation snippet happened on the train ride home:

LS: So, angels are good girls that never got caught,
Good girls are bad girls who got caught and were sorry for their deed,
Bad girls are wicked girls who got caught and were sorry they got caught,
Wicked girls are bad girls who got caught and are not sorry – period
But then there are wicked girls who can’t get caught because they own up to their misdeed before it even happens, so what do you call them?

H (without batting an eyelash): Raivenne

Me (batting several lashes): Yup!

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Today is Day 20 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.
Come see how others are slicing it up this Tuesday!
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Yums the Wurd

As part of the month long celebration of a friend’s birthday.  we had a birthday lunch at a Momofuku Noodle Bar. Yes, that is the actual name a small, but popular chain of an Asian noodle bar in New York City.  I’ve been to Momofuku a few times now. For a place renowned for their noodles, each time I’ve been there was for their chicken dinner, of which there is not one noodle to be found.

Let me present Delicious Exhibit A: Deep Fried Chicken and Spicy Sweet BBQ Wings, plus salad and tortillas in the covered black dish.

Momofuku Chicken Dinner

Momofuku Chicken Dinner

Really how gorgeous is that bowl of veggies? Romaine lettuce, mint and cilantro sprigs, with sliced mini carrots and radish. So colorful, it’s a work of art.

There were five of us at the table. There was still three pieces of chicken left over. That has never happened before. We all looked at each other as if to say “How did this happened?” We just couldn’t eat another bite.

Not even this:

Momofuku - A taste

Just a little something…

So naturally the birthday girl got to take the leftovers home, sans the little bit above of course.

You won this round Momofuku, we’ll get you next time.

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Today is Day 18 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.
Come see how others are slicing it up today.
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Erin Go Montserrat!

Today is St. Patrick’s. Yes, it is celebrated here in the New York City with parades, the wearing of the colors of Ireland, consuming traditional Irish food and let’s be honest drinking -seriously a lot of drinking.  While it is a very festive occasion in several Major cities here in the U.S., it is not a national holiday here where schools, banks and government offices close. While many places celebrate it, what a lot of people don’t know is that Montserrat is the only other place outside of Ireland where the date is officially marked as a national holiday.

Montserrat, “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” Irish connections have long been a source of interest for local residents and tourists alike, and over the past two decades have made concerted efforts to bolster its Irish legacy and build upon perceived connections between present-day Montserrat and historic Irish communities. Its most prominent example of these being St. Patrick’s Day, that simultaneously commemorates the island’s Irish heritage and an uprising by Afro-Caribbean slaves and members of the island’s free black community on the same day in 1768.

 

t-shirt celebrating the 250th Anniversary of the Montserrat slave uprising on St. Patrick's Day 1768.

An officially designated national holiday, it has become a week-long festival that includes a parade in national dress, dinners, dancing, pub crawls and public talks.

Part of a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Montserrat

Part of a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Montserrat.

So to my best friend who is from The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, Erin Go Braugh!

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Today is Day 17 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.
Come see how others are slicing it up today.
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Sighted

May you always have…

…the hindsight to know where you’ve been,
…the foresight to know where you are going and
…the insight to know when you have gone too far.

Sometimes people don’t realize they’ve pushed the wrong button
and sometime they know exactly.

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Today is Day 16 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.
Come see how others are slicing it up today.
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Calendar Girl

It seem a number of people either in real life or here among slicers are all talking about their schedules. With St. Paddy’s Day on Saturday and a birthday celebration on Sunday, I figure I should take a look at mine.

Now, everyone who knows well enough knows – I make no promises to attend anything without consulting my calendar first. Especially after the fiasco a few years back where I did not just double, but triple booked myself for events within the same five-hour time frame. I am very conscientious of managing my time better now.

That being said, I realize now that I have something planned for the next seven weekends and a smattering of weekday events tossed in for good measure. Between birthday parties, a house-warming, movies, Paint Nites, concerts and art galleries and The 24 Hour Project and brunches and friends visiting and posting slices… and… and… and…

And yeah, I’m now exhausted just looking at my calendar.

And yeah, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(See you April 7th GirlGriot!)

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Today is Day 13 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.
Come see how others are slicing it up today.
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Not Exactly What I Meant

When I told someone I need to chill this is not exactly what I meant…

tulip buds in snow
…Though it is very representative of my mood right now.

Frosted over, but trying to push through the madness. I seriously chose the wrong year to give up coffee for Lent.

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Today is Day 8 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.
Let’s how other are slicing and hopefully doing a better job of chilling out today…

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It Catches Up…

Mr. Sandman has chased Ms. Insomnia around the mulberry bush for three days.  I may have slept a total of ten hours twixt these three days.

Maybe it’s all the snow that has fallen on my fair city these past few hours, I don’t know. When Insomnia stopped to take a gander at the pristine snowy city streets Sandman finally caught up to the elusive chick. They are battling still, but I feel she’s losing this round – rapidly and I couldn’t be happier.

My head feels like the marionette string has been cut, I can barely keep my head up. The result being one yawn filled slice before the hay hits me <— not a typo.

G’nite y’all.

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Today is Day 7 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.

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Sometimes You Fail Non Stop

I write. I write documentation at work. I write creatively every where else I can. For instance this is me, during my cruise working on a story while waiting to dock.

Writing during down time while cruzing

In the Broadway show “Hamilton: An American Musical”, at the end of Act I there’s a number called Non Stop in which the friends and family of Alexander Hamilton both praise and bemoan the prolific wordsmith.

“How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?
How do you write like you need it to survive?
How do you write ev’ry second you’re alive?
Ev’ry second you’re alive? Ev’ry second you’re alive?”

This is me to a smaller degree, but not by much depending on who you ask.

If I have an idea I write  or at least try to write a note to myself to revisit an idea later. Trains. Boats. Planes. At a bar. In the middle of a party wherever I am.

However the downside of that is on occasions like today, where I find myself writing so much about the whole fruit, I forget I need to be writing about – you guessed it – the slice.

So for the second day  -er- night  in a  row. I skate in just under the midnight hour.

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Today is Day 6 of the March Slice Of Life Story Challenge.

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