Hummm, hummm. As I hear the engine, my focus shifts from the tranquil tunes of John Mayer Pandora station to the familiar maroon Chevy Malibu at the corner next to a stop sign. There he is again. There is my next-door neighbor who is probably in his 50s and lives alone. Right on the dot at 2:45 PM he is at that stop sign until I walk off of the bus and begin my trek home. It’s not an occurrence that happens every day, but it happens enough. I find it strange and uncomforting.
It does not really affect me too much as I continue my walk home to the rhythm of my music escaping from my headphones. I see maroon through my peripheral vision, so I look and see that my neighbor is driving by while gawking at me – watching me. He is driving well under the speed limit, I guess to maintain his full-fledged focus on me and my every move. We both approach another stop sign where he stops well over the necessary time. During this we lock eyes and I can feel the fear rush from my eyeballs, down to my stomach and toes.
He continues forward and drives straight until the next stop sign where he makes a right turn. I can feel the rate of my heart in my ears as they begin to heat up. I need to get home and I need to get there fast. I essentially become a gold medal Olympian as I book it home faster than I ever have before. As I reach my front door, I get out my keys from my backpack and slide the keys into the slot as my hand quakes. When I enter my home I slam the door shut and look out the window to find him slowly driving by my house, staring straight at me. The fear is pumping through my veins as it intensifies.
Whoo-whoo! I don’t even flinch as I hear the whistling from a guy from behind me to my right, coming from 5 o’clock to be exact. The constant whistling and catcalling becomes old, immature, and aggravating. I have become almost numb to the sound, it happens too frequently. I try to remain my focus on the sidewalk below me. One…two… I count the steps in between each block to make the walk home to my apartment seem much quicker. The air smells of cheap beer intertwined with over-priced pizza. Slurred shouting and laughter of a few guys only gets louder the closer I get to my apartment. A smaller group of guys, probably five or six of them, approach me with full confidence and no hesitation.
“Where ya going, sexy?”
“Can I join you... you and your tits?”
“Will you be my lucky lady tonight?”
I’ve learned and mastered the skill of ignoring inappropriate statements and questions like these. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before, so I can just brush it off as I always do even though I feel nearly powerless and weak. I can’t answer their questions or assertions or else I will become a joke that they will mock. Helpless.
“Aw, don’t ignore me, cutie!”
“I don’t think she likes us very much.”
“She’d like me better in bed, that’s for sure!”
I just want to be in my quiet apartment, in my cloud of a bed listening to John Mayer Pandora station and pigging out on leftovers from dinner. I rush to my apartment, while still ignoring them, without looking too apparent that I’m running away. I get to my place with the fear of those guys, those strangers who now know where I reside, that will keep me awake tonight.
My growling, empty stomach takes my focus away for a second. As I heat up leftovers in the microwave, I turn on Pandora and light some incense. My stomach is empty but I can’t find myself able to eat the food. I’m exhausted but I can’t seem to find myself falling asleep. Remaining is my speeding heart rate, trembling hands, and the taste of fear – the kind of taste that I can’t get rid of when I brush my teeth.
VooRRRR! VooRRRR! The driver of some sort of Volkswagen, who probably paid more for the work and accessories than for the actual car itself, sees me turn my head as he revs his engine. The traffic light remains red as I cross over the intersection. I can feel his eyes stuck on me, stuck on my body as I hurry across. It’s only 7:45 AM, my day barely started, and my mood has already taken a turn. As I give no attention to the VW driver, I sip on my iced coffee. Bitter.
The light turns green, but I’m already passed the intersection. I can hear the car slowly roll up beside me as I walk along the sidewalk. Even though the backgrounds can be a shortcut, I’m glad I learned to walk the busiest of streets here. I never know what can happen, as every weekend something new happens here whether it is a rape, sexual assault, or robbery. Usually a rape.
I try to quicken the pace of my steps while also trying to pay no attention to the VW driver. I glance up with a stone-cold look on my face and to my not-so-surprise, I see that he is rolling his window down. I hear him mumble something, but my heartbeat is pounding through my ears making it hard to focus. I look around only to see not-yet-opened shops and no people or students. Reaching the top of the hill and making it onto campus becomes my main motivation at this point.
The VW driver picks up his speed and continues up Main Street and I decide to do the opposite. I make a turn onto a different route in hopes that I don’t see this driver again. I take my headphones out of my backpack and listen to some John Mayer. “Vultures” always seems to calm me down whenever I get anxious.
I fully calm down until I realize a familiar sound muffled in the distance. I take my headphones out and turn around as the hair on the back of my neck stands up. It’s him. It’s the same VW driver coming my way. Today’s walk feels longer than ever, like I will never reach my destination. My breaths become shallow and my heart rate increases dramatically as he slowly drives by glaring at me with bad intentions in his eyes, fear in my own.
Click, click. I log myself out of the library computer and pack up my belongings. Being the third time I’ve come to the library at this time, I noted that the library becomes nothing but silent after 10 PM during the week especially on a Thursday. As I scan around the vastness of the place, I see only one student, other than the one at the front desk, diligently working and zoned into their studies. It’s unusual to hear my own footsteps as I leave the library, considering that it’s carpeted floors. I glance at the lady at the front desk and we exchange smiles. We are both extremely ready to go to bed after a long, accomplished and work-filled day.
As I push open the library door to exit, I get a feel for the frigid gusts of wind. For being so dark out at this time of night, the campus is still lit pretty well with the countless fluorescent lights pouring brightness in every corner. To be safe, on campus or off campus, I now always carry pepper spray that my dad had purchased for me just in case. Thankfully I have never had to use it, but it remains in my hands ready to stream out on any attacker.
I always hate taking late night trips to the library for the sole purpose that I do not feel comfortable or safe walking alone. For all that has happened in my two and a half years of attending here, I would not be surprised anything happens again. I always remain on my toes, looking left and right, up and down, behind me and in front of me.
I walk down the steps of the library and see a large group of figures ahead walking perpendicular to my path. I don’t know why my heart even starts to race, nothing has happened except the sheer fact of acknowledging other students on campus. I push out of my mind the thoughts of fear and fright, along with the replaying potential scenes.
I can hear the chitter-chatter of the group, as they get closer in proximity. My skin becomes numb to the coldness in the air and breezes. My focus is more towards the other students on campus and their actions. They get quieter with each step they take as they gain more distance closer to me. In my hopes of them not saying anything to me, I realize my expression shows how nervous I am. I shouldn’t be like this. I should not be this scared.
“Look at that ass!”
“Check out her tits!”
I continue to look forward, while I know they are looking at my backside. I take a big swallow to get rid of the lump in my throat. Nausea takes over my body and I just need to get to my car.
“OK, girl. I see you!”
“Mmm… You got it going on.”
“Oh she can definitely have this d***.”
They all laugh. They laugh and agree with each other’s crude and raunchy statements. I don’t say anything. I can’t say anything. I want to say something. I have become a joke; something that they can laugh at and something they can throw verbal punches at. Suddenly my pepper spray does not make me feel so safe.
I make distance away from the group of guys and promptly call my mom. This has become routine for me, no matter the time when I walk alone going anywhere – on campus, off campus, sometimes in my car. I keep my mom on the phone to feel some sense of security, but in reality she’s an hour and a half away and can’t protect me. The entire time I’m on the phone until I get in my car and lock it, my teeth remain clench with anger and my hands shaking with trepidation. My uneasy eyes remain full of fear.
Sara Brace is a marketing major attending Kutztown University. She is very passionate about female empowerment and feminism. This is her first publication.