I live in a small town. It’s not quite farm-town small, or small town mentality small, but it’s small enough that there’s a general feeling of safety and warmth from the town. We have a lot of older members and young families, retirees and the such, and it’s generally quite peaceful. Yes, like any town, there’s going to be the jokes (Port Dope or Port No-Hope are both popular nicknames for the town) but, generally, it’s a peaceful place, and it’s a pretty good place to live-I can walk outside after dark without worrying too much, to give a general understanding. I’ve lived my life knowing that I’m lucky to be able to do so, and being thankful, as I know and understand that the vast majority of they world does not have that level of trust and safety in their town. Like the majority of girls, I’ve dealt with the cat calling and the comments on the street. Once, I was even Gollum-ed at in a game cafe. Honestly, it’s the kind of thing you just shrug off and ignore, which probably isn’t the feminist thing to do but it’s how I’m comfortable handling it, as confrontation is not my strong suit.
Wow, this post is a bit of a mess, and I’m sorry for that. But that’s why I created the “Let’s Talk” post series; I wanted a place where I could just put my thoughts down.
The other day, I took the bus to the mall in the neighbouring town. It’s another little town, but it has a Walmart and a Chapters, and I needed to get a few things. So I got dressed, put on a little makeup, threw my hair in a ponytail, and off I went. Maybe it was my fault, maybe I wasn’t being careful enough, having been lulled into a sense of security from my town-I was wearing a skirt with tall socks, because it’s Canada, and it’s cold, and my tights were in the wash. When I got on the bus, a couple guys my age eyed me-which I was kind of expecting, not the sound overconfident. It happens a fair bit, and it’s just something I’ve gotten used to as a 17-year-old girl, it’s just kind of a part of existing. So I sat down in an empty seat, put my purse on the empty seat next to me and went on my way. I did my errands, went to the bookstore, and generally had a good time-I noticed people looking at me, but the extent was just a wink or a nod, which is pretty respectful, so it was an easy trip. The bus home was a different story.
The bus was empty because it was late. Just me, the driver, an exhausted mid 30’s woman with her kid, and a skateboarder guy in his late 20’s. I got on, sat down, and didn’t bother with the purse-on-the-seat-next-to-me thing because there was an entire empty bus. The guy in his late 20’s sat next to me. It weirded me out a little, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal-I was near the back of the bus, maybe he was just a nice guy who didn’t want to sit alone? So I just made myself take up as little space as possible and put in a headphone. I wasn’t listening to anything, but I didn’t feel like talking. A little ice-bitchy, maybe, but I was tired and didn’t want to spend too much time making small talk. About half way home, he elbowed me. I figured it was an accident because the bus is old and jostles a fair bit, but then he motioned to take my earbud out. I did. He leant over and whispered in my ear. He told me that I was very pretty, and that he’d like to get to know me better. If it hadn’t been for the proximity, I wouldn’t have been so freaked out, but I moved closer to the window, thanked him for his compliment, and stuttered something about having a boyfriend. He nodded, but didn’t move out of my space for the rest of the ride. When we got to my stop, I pushed the stop request button, smiled and told him to have a nice day, thanked the bus driver, and got off. I got about halfway up the street before realising that the bus was gone, but the man who I thought would disappear from my life with that bus stood leaning against the bus stop post.
He was probably just waiting for someone, I told myself. What a funny coincidence that he gets off at this stop too, I told myself, I’ve never seen anyone else get off at this stop.
I was about halfway up the street before I realised I was being followed. He walked behind me at a decent length, but I could tell he was following me when I went through a shortcut and he hesitated a second before using it too. The general population doesn’t use that path this time of year- it’s steep, and slippery, and you almost always fall. I went through, and without looking back, quickened my pace. What can I say? I was considerably freaked. It gave me some extra distance from the man, but he got through and kept pace behind me.
Finally, I came to my street. My street is in a ravine, where half of it is densely covered in plants, even in the winter, while the other is lined by houses. My home is nestled in behind the plants, and we typically enter from another way- the ravine is difficult to navigate, particularly in winter. He was at the end of the road when I started to climb up my neighbour’s part of the ravine- we have stairs, but I figured I was better off going through the bush and cutting across to my house when he couldn’t see me. When I got to the top, I saw his back as he headed back the way he came, and felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I cut across my neighbour’s lawn, got home, and locked every door and window I could, because it’s march break and I’m alone.
That was on Monday. I haven’t left my house since. I’ve had some friends over, so some cars have been in and out, but I haven’t gone outside. I haven’t really slept that much either-It’s kind of funny, almost poetic, how the monsters under the bed that used to keep my up have been replaced. Maybe I shouldn’t be this freaked out. Maybe I’m being an idiot. I think I’m pretty safe-I have amazing neighbours, and friends and family in the community I can count on. I told people about what happened, so people are checking in on me. It was probably just one bored boy who made a split second decision, and I’ll never see him again. But it’s shattered my confidence in the town and any belief that I had of being safe and secure here.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to get across in this post. But I needed to write this down. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read, and I’d really appreciate it if you left a comment. Is this something you’ve experienced? Why in the world would someone think that this was okay? Let me know, because this shouldn’t be something we need to worry about.