I walk alone at night to resist the patriarchy, and all of the discourse that suggests my most feminine trait is being a target for violence. These memes create expectations. Fear becomes the expected behavior, couched in folk wisdom; of course you wouldn’t walk outside at night. Of course you should stay inside. It’s safe. I refuse to be a damsel in distress, locking herself in a castle. I’m not naive; I am more familiar with how much stronger men are than I’d like. I regularly read the police maps to see what happened that was worth attempting to bother our local precinct. But I’ve walked these and those streets at 10PM and midnight and during daylight in the weather-battered neighborhoods people call “bad”. I’d be FDR’s star student, fearing fear more than anything else. Knock on wood, none of my problems have arisen from this habit.
Some of them have been solved, actually. I walk because I need some quiet time, time to think, and time to be alone. This has been a habit since I was a teenager, one I discontinued when my children were born. Kids, you know, they don’t sleep well at first. I resumed it a couple months ago when I temporarily stop drinking. I dried out because I just need to figure out why was I drinking so often. Answer? Numbing, an old human story. Anyway, I kept the habit because fuck the patriarchy and here’s to helpful coping skills.
I cross the boundary out of my neighborhood. One foot after the other, down the street, over the bridge, down another road. If I continue long enough, I get to a park. It’s closed. That doesn’t stop too many people. I see joggers and college students among the lights and the historic features. There’s a pond. It’s a fraught pond, a metaphor-for-Buffalo pond, where it looks lovely on the surface but it’s complicated below. I turn off the music and walk the path. It was quiet, the birds were singing, and the stars were ever slightly more visible. I’d have bottled the calm, if I could, and brought it to you when you told me you were distressed.
I hiked to this point, quiet and beautiful. Something in my gut told me to go no further. I heard only wind and leaves. I saw nothing. I couldn’t tell if it was because nothing was there or because it was so dark I would not see it. I paused. I scanned as far as I could see.
There was nothing apparent but this uneasy feeling in my stomach. “Am I afraid of the dark?” I asked myself, What is dark but uncertainly. What is fear, but speculation about uncertainty? I do not want to be afraid of nothing. The only so-called resistance work I do right now is the rebellious choice to be calm, to be blasted by the winds of outrage – outrage that I feel too – and stay still.
There is a such thing as stupid risks. With little to gain but a few hundred yards in that direction, I respected the feeling and turned around. Walking away left me curious, and nothing more. Yet odds are, walking through likely would have resulted in me being unscathed and curious at the anxiousness in my gut. Is it a socialized fear? Did I overrun my propensity towards risk? I don’t know. And I don’t get to find out with the decisions I made.