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The street isn’t empty. They never are. But even empty streets aren’t safe streets. And full streets aren’t safe streets. Day. Night. Empty. Fully. A street is a street.

And a street isn’t safe. The slap of my shoes on the ground. The familiar plaza, the restaurant, grocery store, clothes store, clothes store, clothes store.

In the clothes store window, the clothes seem normal. The tops, the jeans, the dresses. Most of the time one changing store display to another just looks all the same. But at least in these windows I can see behind me.

At times walking down the street feels like a spy movie come to life. Checking for a trail, keeping my profile low, trying not to draw attention, always giving the air of moving with purpose, as if I always know where I am and where I’m going at every moment, every step.

Was that guy there before? Is he still behind me?

The familiar transit stop

Didn’t I pass him going the other way around?

Was he there before?

Don’t stop. Not this corner. Never this corner. The red hand isn’t read by me. I see the white walking person. I am the white walking person. I say when to continue. I say when to go. I am the white walking person. Always walking, never stopping.

Not this corner. Never this corner.

The calls come. They cut the distance between us. They claw at my skin, pull at my scarf, catch on my ears, tear at my scalp, cut their way into my mind. The calls linger, they echo, they resonate. Like outstretched hands grasping at me. The calls come.

The whistles come. They startle, alarm. Piercing into my mind. Through my ears to shock my heart an extra beat. Did they whistle at me? Don’t look. Did they mean me? Don’t look. Did the whistle matter? Don’t look. Don’t listen. The whistles come. If I look, if I listen. If I don’t look, if I don’t listen. The whistles come. Like outstretched hands grasping at me.

The bike rack

I always found that ironic. They gave me a whistle. Long ago. Supposedly for prevention. But why would I whistle when a whistle may be the very start of unsafety? How can the very sound which catches me off guard to which I must hear to avoid be the very sound which I should find peace in, protection in, rescue in? The sound that stretches out its hands toward me. The whisteles come.

A whistle is a warning sign. A warning sign for me. Not a warning sign for them. Don’t look Don’t listen. Just Don’t. I tell myself this again and again. I chant this down the street, up the block, around the city. In my mind to my heart to my ears. Don’t look, don’t listen.

But still the calls come. The whistles come. Like outreached hands but from impossible distances no hands should be able to reach.

Because I know the outreached hands — they come too. Closer. Dangerouser. Violenter. Scarier. The hands come at me too.

I was told to always walk in a group. To always walk with a friend. To only walk in the day. To only walk in areas I know.

As if that mattered.

As if that mattered. Because it matters to me — I think about it — but it doesn’t matter to the calls, to the whistles, to the hands.

Day does not matter. Night does not matter. Alone does not matter. Group does not matter.

Don’t look. Don’t listen. Don’t remember.

Don’t think about that spot. The spot where a hand grabbed me, no call no whistle, just grabbed me. In the daylight in a group. The hand grabbed me. I can still see the face. The person the hand belonged to. I still hear the laugh. The laugh, the laugh that sticks in my mind. The terror on my face as I pulled my arm away. They laughed. The laugh a laugh at my fear at my terror at my weakness at me. I felt gross, dirtied, used, cast aside, like i should wash my arm don’t look don’t listen don’t think don’t remember

About that spot. That corner up ahead. The corner where

My hands feel twisted. Shoved in my pockets. Writhing with my stomach, writing with my heart. My hands twist, fidget, pull out my phone to check put away my phone to not be a target for theft

Don’t think don’t listen don’t look don’t look don’t look don’t look don’t look

The familiar pizza place

But know where you’re going, but know what’s ahead, but know what around you. Look to the right and the left, i tell myself, look to the front and to the back, know who is behind you, know who is in front of you. I tell myself this. I feel like a spy, i feel like a spy i feel like a spy

Not me. Not me not me. It’s not me. I am not me walking along the street i live on. I am a spy in a Hollywood movie. Checking for a tail. Walking with a purpose.

I am not me. I can’t be just me on the street. Because that cannot be my reality. This cannot be the way i walk on a street. No, no no, not me. Another person. I am safe on the street. I am fine. I am fine. I will be fine. I was fine before

I was fine before? Yes, just don’t think about that corner up ahead. The corner where

Not me. No, not me. I have mastered the ability to fake disregard. To fake hearing. To look like i don’t care when all i do is care. Because the whistles come. The calls come the hands. Come like hands.

But not to grab me. Not to catch my attention. To catch someone else’s to grab someone else. Not me. I am not just me on the street.

Because just me on the street —

I have shared my location. Multiple people know where i am at every moment. I have a local number, to text out of wifi. I am fine. I will be fine. I was fine before. I know the route in my mind. I see it in front of me. Just past that corner that corner that corner where I don’t stop. Like the white walking person i don’t stop.

My legs continue. My head whips both ways. My legs carry me across the street past that corner. The car must stop because i will not stop, i will never stop at that corner

Only my thoughts stop, my memory will stop at the at corner. I cannot stop at that corner that corner where

Don’t think don’t think don’t look don’t listen don’t

Because I’m just me on a street

This is how it is. This is my normal.

The street isn’t empty. But it doesn’t matter. I brought headphones. The music blows through the buildings, down the center of the street, following the traffic. The music encapsulates the space around me.

I walk alone. Afterall, a street is a street

Past the grocery store, the clothes store. The jacket in the window seems like an older style. Not something I’d wear. Besides, the clothes seem crazy overpriced. I wouldn’t spend that kind of money unless I had a really good reason to. There are much bigger things that I want than clothes.

No, not this song. I don’t listen to that stuff so much anymore.

Oh, the familiar bus stop.

Should I stop somewhere for lunch?

What time is it? 

These people on the street corner. Can’t they gather somewhere else? Walking through them isn’t always pleasant, sometimes they smell. 

Did someone call? Maybe my music isn’t loud enough. Maybe I just don’t want to listen to this song. Last time I had that song playing, it was so old. 

Was that a whistle? I don’t see a bus or anything. Weird. 

Oh, that’s a new store. I’ve never noticed it before, did it just open recently? Maybe?

The bike rack.

Walking alone is so much calmer. No one bothers me. I have a purpose. I know where I’m going. I don’t need to listen to the people around me. What could they have to say? I don’t want to talk to them and they don’t want to talk to me.

The familiar pizza place.

No, not that one either. I don’t want to listen to that today either. It doesn’t fit the mood. Walking along a street is like that moment in Hollywood movies, with everyone in step together. That moment that freezes in time where the characters feel on top of the world.

No, this song, that one isn’t me.

Just me on the street. Figures, when I’m so close to my building.

Oh, after the light changes. Maybe I’ll just keep walking. But the signal is red. 

Oh well, it’s just me on the street.

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