By Eleanor Antoniou
CN: Discussions of violence against women.
I wrote this piece in March last year in the days following the news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance. In those days, she was all I could think about. I felt so overwhelmed that I sat down one night at my laptop and poured out my feelings, fears and heartbreak into this piece, writing in a non-stop frenzy of tears until it was finished. I never thought I would look back at these words, let alone publish them here, but I’ve decided to share them now on the anniversary of Sarah’s death, as once more, I can’t stop thinking about her, and Nicole, and Bibaa, and Sabina, and Ashling, and all the others who should still be here today. RIP Sarah, and all the other women who have died at the hands of male violence. No words can explain how sickened, angry, and broken this makes me feel.
there are monsters in the dark and I’m scared to walk home. it’s only 9:30pm. it’s only a ten-minute walk. but I don’t know what monsters are out there in the dark. my heart is racing, I’m walking so fast. all I want is to get out of the dark. these are streets I know so well, but at night, they are no longer mine. why must it feel like they are no longer mine? why must I walk with such fear in my heart?
I have to walk the long way, no alleyways for me. monsters live in alleyways, in places I can’t see. stick to the main road, that’s what they say, call someone while you walk, then text your friend when you get home. I look at the warm squares of yellow in the windows, up and down. soon I’ll be safe in my own warm light. just a few minutes more.
but now there’s a figure on the other side of the road. is he a monster? how can I know? I don’t want to look too much; I don’t want him to notice me. I speed up slowly, my hand in my pocket picks up my keys. keep walking, keep walking, just get yourself home, says every beat of my frightened heart. and then he’s gone past me. I can breathe. he wasn’t a monster, or at least not for me.
I turn the corner, so close now. but what was that sound? did I hear footsteps somewhere behind me? I look around. was that just a shadow? am I still alone in the dark? what if someone is following me? I think someone might be following me. I’ve trained all my life to notice the signs.
now my legs hurt because I’m walking so fast. but if I run, that will look wrong, that might provoke a monster, maybe I’m imagining it. just act normal. I tell myself it’s nothing. that I’m only walking home. it’s just a normal night, a normal town, a normal woman walking home. except I’m sure he’s following me. but now I’m scared to turn around. I’m scared to look behind me, as if that will set my fate, that might make the panther pounce.
because monsters are real, but they aren’t actually monsters, as all women know. why is a man the most terrifying thing in the world to a woman who just wants to walk home?
I just wanted to walk home but I wasn’t allowed.
Featured Image: NBC News.