I am a nineteen year old young woman currently attending college. My major is English with a specific focus on Creative Writing. That is what I love to do— write. While my main point of expertise is writing teen romance stories, lately I have been wanting to write about a topic that has been banging inside my brain. It is a topic that has been discussed several times, however I’d like to share my own experience with this. The topic is walking alone at night.
I have a friend whose name I will leave undisclosed for privacy reasons. We met during our first year of college because we both took the same train to the campus, since we were both commuters. Our friendship was destiny, one for the books. Here is how we met:
One day, the train was running an hour late. I had already accepted the fact that I was going to miss my first class of the day and was silently sitting on a bench reading a book for my Women and Gender general education class. Suddenly, two girls came up to me and one of them asked me if I attended our college. Of course, I felt hesitant to tell her because she was a complete stranger. However, regardless of this fact, I spoke up anyway and answered yes. She then replied that she was willing to offer me a ride to school because she was also a student, as well as the girl next to her.
Accepting rides from strangers seems to be a decision that only the people about to get killed in horror movies make. But in that moment, I wasn’t in a horror movie. I was in my own personal life, and I had to use my own judgment on these two young girls. To fast forward through my thinking process, I agreed. We all got in the car and chatted as if we were old friends. The ride to school plus the traffic we encountered wasn’t too bad, and we got there in one piece. The older girl who I later learned was a fourth year went off to her class, but the younger girl and I walked around campus for a bit and continued talking. We exchanged numbers, and I told her we could take the train home later. I did not imagine, for a single second, that we would become such close friends.
This year, she no longer takes the train with me. Instead, she has to take the bus due to it being more convenient in terms of time flexibility. The train only comes and goes at certain times during the day, but the buses come every twenty minutes. She has night classes. She has to come to school on the bus and go home using the bus. Her day begins at 10:30 a.m., and she does not leave campus until nearly seven o’clock at night. The walk to the bus stop is a bit of a lengthy one. You have to cross the street, then pass a string of small shops. One of these includes a college bar. Another is a club.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend asked me if she could call me later that night when she was done with her classes while she walked to the bus stop. I said yes, because I would be home already. She did not even need to elaborate as to why. When she called me later that night, we simply chatted like we normally would face to face. I asked her how her day was and if her design class was interesting or boring. She asked me if my favorite television show was on. I answered no, not for another thirty minutes. Our conversation continued until she reached the bus stop, yet even then I stayed on the phone with her until she told me her bus had arrived, and she was getting on the bus. Only then did we hang up.
We have done this several times now. She calls me while she is walking to the bus stop. I pick up. We talk. Her bus comes. We hang up. Yet each time she calls, I find myself feeling panicky. As we talk and I ask her about her day, I really want to ask her:
No one is following you, right?
Are there any homeless men bothering you?
You passed by the bar already? No male college students stepped out and attempted to hit on you?
I hear a male voice in the background. Make sure he’s not eyeing you, okay?
Our conversation through the phone may seem simple and happy, like any other conversation someone would have with their close friend, however deep down we both know the real reason why we are on the phone. She is on the phone because she is afraid of walking alone at night. She is on the phone because she wants to hear a familiar, reassuring voice to feel like she is not alone as she walks and passes by a bench where three men are sitting and having a smoke. She is on the phone because she wants to hear me crack a joke so she can laugh and feel less nervous inside about passing by a bar where a group of college boys have intoxicating alcohol flooding their systems. She is not afraid of the night, of the dark sky and the black pavement. She is afraid of the men lurking in the night who may have bad intentions.
Every time she calls me, I am relieved. I am relieved because it means that nothing happened to her while she started walking. No one tried to yank her by the arm into a dark alleyway or come up to her with liquor stained on their tongue and call her baby and rub her arm.
I am a woman who answers the phone every time her friend calls at night because I am a woman who is also afraid. And I wish, I wish so badly, that I was not. Because the night is a beautiful time to walk and live in, yet it is the dangerous people in our world that scare us away from it. It is the news that I see on television indicating that a woman has been raped because she was leaving a club and had to walk a few blocks to her apartment. It is the article I read on Facebook stating that a girl was waiting at a bus stop and was kidnapped who is still missing to this very day.
And if one of these articles ever became about my friend, or about any woman in my life for that matter, I do not know what I would do. I would not only be devastated, but I would be angry and confused.
Because why can’t women walk alone at night without feeling afraid? Why can’t women pass by a group of boys or older men and not feel like they are being judged or sexually perceived? Why can’t we walk confidently pass men and not worry about our bodies being taken advantage of?
My hope is that one day women are able to walk passed people and not feel afraid because they are wearing revealing clothing or because they chose to wear a skirt or because they are female, in general. They will be able to feel content. They will not feel scared of the night or alleyways and corners on the street. They will be able to walk without fear. And I hope that one day my friend will be able to call me as she’s walking to the bus stop at night not because she is afraid, but because she knows that she will be okay.