This time while i’m away i have been thinking about freedom and how home for me is the place i feel most free. Not in a spiritual sense but physically – I live in a safe bubble surrounded by people i know and trust and can generally wear what i like / say what i like / go to places on the safest paths that i know well. Freedom is knowing how to be safe and knowing i can create my own safety if i need to.
Since leaving two weeks ago i’ve collected little moments of harassment like flecks under my skin. How many men have called to me, how many have grabbed me or pulled my clothes or swore at me, I lost count on the first day. So many that only the darker incidents (quiet footfalls following us and whispering awful things; so many men grabbing us that if not for a passing taxi i don’t want to think – ) stick in my mind.
We talk about it every day, to each other, to girls we meet along the way. They laugh and I laugh too and we wonder together possible ways to make it improve, ways to feel safe. We show each other stories like little scars that after a while blur and settle uncomfortably in the bottom of my stomach.
I think about how many times I’ve tried to explain to (male) friends what it’s like. Among women we talk about it freely, daily. Among men I’m met with blank looks or worried suggestions to “be safe”. I think about the way I always feel slightly guilty, for wearing what I was wearing or just for being there and not somewhere else. For talking about it, as if talking about it created it. As if it only exists in me, when I open my mouth.
I don’t wish for a kind of safety that comes from covering up and being quiet. I don’t long for safety that involves me hiding away or altering the way I am. I want it to be overwhelming and everywhere. I worry sometimes if home is the place I feel most free; a place I have constructed myself and know how to navigate and still I am always wary; maybe nowhere is really free. Maybe there is nowhere.