So here’s a thing: I don’t like walking home alone when it’s dark. I don’t much like walking home alone full stop. And even when I’m walking with someone else, a man walking towards me up the pavement is enough to make my heart rate shoot through my furry headband.
I’m not one given to hippy-drippy, mumbo-jumbo claptrap, but an incident of some two months ago that left me physically unharmed has irritatingly seemed to worm its way into my brain, and give me a daily dose of the heebie jeebies. And now I don’t seem to be able to get from the top of the road to my front door without a bout of shuddering terror.
After the event, I was pretty squeamish, but steeled the no-nonsense side of the brain and told myself to get on with it. Having people walk me home, I reasoned, would just delay the inevitable moment when I’d have to do it myself, so I decided just to bite the proverbial rather than creating another problem for myself to get over later down the line.
But when I walk home now, I spend the entire journey looking over my shoulder. I fleetingly identify people in the street who look non-threatening enough that I could run towards if I needed to. I look closely at the face of every guy I pass, wondering if all men in hoods, or everyone playing music out of their phones, or all black guys are him, and whether he’s going to do it again.
As soon as I leave the tube station, my keys are in my hand, each key pushed between my fingers just in case someone comes close enough that I need to lash out. I had a long and not entirely jokey discussion with The Writer one evening about the best way to defend oneself with a golf umbrella. And, giving myself the best chance of running away if necessary, I’ve not worn heels out in public since it happened.
The very worst bit – on top of a) not feeling safe outside my front door, and b) generally feeling like a prized idiot – is that I’ve seen the scumbag around since. I’ve seen him from the window and watched as he’s walked up my road; and I’ve seen him hang around in the doorway of a bar that I walk past on my way back to the flat.
He, I assume, hasn’t given a passing thought to that woman he went for in the street before Christmas; not the foggiest idea that even though he didn’t make off with a phone or a bag or having fucked her, he’s sufficiently screwed the bit of her brain that made her feel safe in public. And if he has done, I imagine he probably couldn’t care. Which is overwhelmingly the attitude I've had so far from the police too, despite claims that victims of crime are their priority.
There’s not much I can do, other than carry on and power through – to keep reminding myself that, statistically, it won’t happen again; and in time rewire my synapses to realise that. Oh, and always carry a golf umbrella.