You can tell which are the men who fear women as soon as you see them. Problematic, maybe, but true, at least in my experience. There is a look to them: exaggerated strides that take up space and seek attention and eyes that seem to see right through you.
Along an empty Whitechapel sidewalk, the three of us approach a narrow space in between an apartment building’s brick wall and a van parked on the curb next to our walkway. Another woman—especially another as young and small and alone as myself—might step into the street and around the other side of the van but I keep walking—I always keep walking. Finding home in your skin is the beginning of strength.
The way the taller one looks at me feels the way Byron Hadley’s voice sounds in The Shawshank Redemption when he says he likes hard to get. He looks at me and I look at him, always—I never look away. I wonder what he’ll say; where it will fall on the spectrum of things that have been said to women in tight spaces on empty streets. But this one is different. As his eyes move down my body he says, as he walks by me, Too small.
I say nothing. I always say something, but now I do not know what to say. Too small? I do not feel that way. Is that what I am?
We are sitting at a picnic table in Brixton. He is saying something to me. I don’t know. I feel angry and I break. I break at him. I don’t know what he’s said. Where are we? My mind melts, preoccupied by thoughts that move in circles. Over and over. Soon it will be gone.
We are in the museum. Black mouths with sharp teeth eat me alive and I welcome them. Small are the hours that go by.
London, United Kingdom