October 13, 2016

Let’s say you’re a woman who’s always been alone, and so you’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of self-protection. You go for runs before work—no headphones, alert—and on a certain street, there lives an older man who often happens to be out in his yard. After a while, he comes to recognize you and starts shouting, “Nice springs” when you pass. You’re fast. You know this is impressive. You tell yourself he doesn’t mean any offense. That you’re not in any real danger. But soon, you start to change when you approach his house: pulse heightens, pace quickens, a look of fierce determination spreads across your face, hoping this combination will be enough to keep him silent. It never is. “Nice springs.” Soon, you start avoiding his street. Then one day, angry that you’ve let these two words so dominate your decisions, you decide to brave it again, breath catching as you brace yourself to hear him—but the house is emptied, blinds open, a “for rent” sign in the yard. Relief chases so much adrenaline from your muscles that your legs almost buckle beneath you. The next day, you’re happy to head down his street, but still, that old primal fear floods your veins, gut dropping as you approach. How many days before you stop watching for his sudden appearance on the lawn (“nice springs”)? How many weeks before someone moves in to take his place, who shouts words even worse? Is it okay to pray for a woman, a family, or better yet, a man who would never do such a thing? How many months before you speed up when you pass that house, not because you have to, but because you can? How many years before you stop wishing there was nothing to fear in the first place?

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