Dinner at my dear friend Daniel’s house was a feast for the soul. He whipped up a Cali-Asian fusion of silver rice noodles soaking in spicy green curry sauce, fresh veggies seasoning every bite. Daniel is a brilliant writer, the topic of our many conversations. His style is raw and poetic, blocks of words brimming with emotions that linger with you long after you’ve put the pages down. Hours passed like minutes between us until the next thing I knew, it was time to go home. This is where I knew things would get tricky. Daniel lives in a super sketchy part of town. From his kitchen, we’d looked down at the streets where sparks of lighters flickered above crack pipes. Skeletal women roamed the streets, looking for men to feed their bodies to so they could feed their habit. If I had the power to, I’d blink and the neighborhood would be a welcoming place for folks to call home. For now I had to worry about actually getting home. “I can walk you to the train station,” Daniel offered, and I graciously accepted.
It turned out, walking down the street in Daniel’s neighborhood was easy. We chatted effortlessly as life carried on around us. Sure I received a couple of stolen glances, but not one word was said to me—not one. No one drooled a “hey baby” at me or blew any whistles my way. Men did not click their tongues at me as if I were a cat. People weren’t just seeing me; they were seeing me walk with a 6-foot tall confident man through his neighborhood. I felt a strange and lovely sense of protection. Even in broad daylight, I'm always on guard. What a peculiar privilege men have to walk so freely through the streets…are half of them even aware of this entitlement?
At the top of the train station, I stalled my goodbye. A McDonald’s coffee cup had gotten stuck in a crack at the top of the escalator. Each rising step pushed the cup continuously before flattening out underneath the massive wheel in motion. The cup kept rolling and rolling in perfect circles. It was just a piece of trash but I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I wanted to feel that way. I wanted to stay in that feeling forever with Daniel, that strange secure sense of invincibility in an exuberant world of chaos. I’m not saying men don’t have their own set of fears, but being violated by someone forcefully stronger than them isn’t likely the same reality that women carry with them everyday. I’ve been mugged before; my mugger flung me fiercely into the wall of a corner-store before I collapsed to the ground, wriggling desperately on a sidewalk soaked of piss and spilt beer. Another time a man touched my crotch late at night when I was walking to the train station after work—just walked by and glided his finger over me as if I were a piece of fruit at the market he’d suddenly changed his mind on. He laughed when I screamed back at him—laughed.
I waved goodbye as the escalator carried me underground, trying to keep the strange high that Daniel had left me with. I couldn’t believe it. I’d walked through the ghetto at the heart of witching hour and I wasn’t even harassed—I wasn’t even afraid. I couldn’t wait to tell my ruca how good it felt to be me at that moment: a lighthearted freeness that a child might feel before life warps them. When I got to the bottom of the station, a young man was screaming on his cell phone about just having gotten evicted, and what the fuck was he going to do? And why the fuck wasn’t whoever he was calling answering his phone?! Cursing, strings of spit dangled from his lips as I walked past him, the only person in his sight or mine. The station agent booth was empty. Outside sounds drowned away in the roar of ambulance sirens from the streets. An ominous emotion flickered across the man’s eyes as he sized me up, too obviously fitting a scenario in his head. My safe-house feeling vanished. The protection, the security, it had all disappeared now and I was back to “normal.” Bluffing fearlessness, I squared my shoulders broadly as I hurried past him down the stairs. In that very moment, I envied Daniel as much as I loved him.
The train blasted through the station, ready to take me back home where I’d soon be with my ruca and the cats. I hardly flinched as the train delivered a fervent gust of chilled night air through the tunnel. My mind was somewhere else. I couldn’t get the image of the coffee cup out of my head, it was all I could think about. It had rolled and rolled at the top of the escalator, stuck like a perfect wheel in motion…it could’ve gone on forever.