Not Every Man, But Any Man

This piece was originally published in the October 2017 edition of The Eloquent Orifice.

Tired, sticky bodies, pushed together into a suffocating tram carriage.
Tall men surround me. Standing at five feet and eight inches, I still cannot meet their
eyes without tilting my head back. I do not even try, knowing that they will see the
fear in mine.

Suddenly a hand—someone’s hand, anyone’s hand, everyone’s hand—reaches
behind me and squeezes my backside.
There’s nowhere to run to, nowhere to go. I stand completely still, willing myself to
be anywhere else, until I can finally get off the tram.

It could have been worse.
I got off easy.
Some women aren’t so lucky.

I check behind me; is anyone, that man, following me into the train station? My body
slackens with relief when I do not see him anywhere.

As the doors of the train slide open, I take a step into the carriage. My eyes dart
back and forth, left and right, as I work out my game plan.

Empty seat to my right: good. Middle-aged man with his hands in his pockets sitting
in the next seat over: bad. I pass by the empty seat.

Standing room at the opposite end of the carriage: good. Only men standing in the
vicinity: bad. I decide sitting is the best option.

I choose a seat near a woman and a young family; this will be where I am safest.

Forty-five minutes left on the train. The young family and the woman disembark at
their respective stations.

Thirty minutes left. An older man who looks to be in his 60s at youngest boards the
train and immediately makes a beeline for the vacant seat next to me. Please, no.
Choose one of the many other empty seats. I breathe slowly. Don’t assume the worst. I
look out the window.

Fifteen minutes left. The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out his digital
camera.

Twelve minutes left. I glance down at the man’s camera to discover it pointed
directly at me, clutched near his waist, red light on, recording my every move. My
stomach clenches. I clutch my backpack and move to the seat opposite mine.

Ten minutes left. The man shifts his body. I again look at the camera. Red light is
still on. Still angled at me. My stomach, still clenched.

Arriving at the station. I stand up and wait nervously in front of the cold, silver
doors, waiting to be released from this metal prison.

The train slows to a stop. I feel a breath on my shoulder. I glance behind me. The
Man With The Camera presses his body against mine.

I run to the opposite end of the carriage as the doors slowly open, exiting through
the second set of doors. Tears sting my eyes, partly due to the sudden wind rushing
into the train, and partly because of the adrenaline and fear coursing through my
veins. I fumble to find my Myki pass, and I slam it down on the Myki reader to touch
off. I race down the flight of never-ending stairs and sprint all the way home.

Home. Safe. Lucky.

Until tomorrow.

 

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