A co-worker closed the door to the staff room behind him.
It locked automatically
and I started planning what I could use as a weapon:
smash the glass beside the fridge into his eye.
pick up the fork next to me and sink it into his leg.
claw him across the face if I couldn’t get to anything in time.
As I calculated how hard it would be to shove his body weight off of me,
he finished making his lunch, said, “Sup,” and left,
the door automatically locking behind him.
I expect if I told him I was prepared to stab him with the corner of my staff ID if I had to,
he would say what I’ve heard too often, the one we all know
but are getting wearily suspicious of:
Not all men are like That.
When I was eleven, all the girls in my class got sent to self-defence
because they assumed we’d need it one day.
When I was twelve, there was a prostitute’s body dumped in the river next to my house
because someone thought she was disposable.
When I was thirteen, it happened again and this time the man went to jail
and people stood outside the courtroom and held up signs that he did the right thing.
When I was fourteen, my friend showed up to a sleepover late, chest heaving from sobbing
and from running four blocks after getting chased by a man that followed her off the bus.
When I was fifteen, my mother accused me of being a Man Hater
and I said, “No, but god, would you blame me if I was?”
I got catcalled and then got laughed at when I flipped them off.
they pulled up beside me and I clutched my bag tighter,
my hand going in for my keys and my mind going over how their noses would look
if I smashed them in with my elbow.
“What’s the big deal,” the guy at the steering wheel asked. “We’re just complimenting you. We’re not like That.”
Sorry, but I’m not going to trust you in case I end up on a poster labelled ‘MISSING.’
Even if you seem like the nicest guy, I’ll still have one hand holding my keys
as the only knife I’m allowed, because I don’t know how far you’re going to take it:
if you won’t back off when I tell you I don’t want to date you
if you’ll shout BITCH at me when I don’t respond well to your catcall
if you’ll expect my body as a reward for treating me like a human being
if you’ll try to take what you think you’re owed by being a man
if you’ll turn me into another statistic that people shudder away from.
I have been trained to assume that it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing
or face the consequences.
I don’t know if you’ll nod when I reject you
or pump me full of bullets.
Every single woman I’ve talked to has a story where they haven’t felt safe in their own body
because of what a man said or did.
Not all men are like That, but god, it’s enough."