Me, too. Me, too with the history of rape, the infernal gropings, the street harassment, the masturbating strangers with their cocks in their hands and their feet off the accelerator coasting alongside me calling me a whore. Me, too, with all my fear and every paranoid yesterday and all the filth assault left under my skin. Me, too, with the questions about where the next assault will come from or whether I’m immune because I’ve filled my quota now.
I’ve learned to walk with purpose, to hide under this many clothes, to wear my sense of purpose on my sleeve and tie my hair the shrinking violet way. Me, too, with the black dress that only comes out when I’m with friends who look intimidating enough to survive these streets. Me, with the steel-toed boots and the pepper spray.
On Monday, Peter gives me a newspaper article about kidnappings by taxi drivers in the city, so I take the train instead. At the station, two women are outraged about the previous night’s fucked up schedule because in South Africa, being late doesn’t mean a screaming husband and hungry kids. It means another potential rape. At my 9:30 appointment, my doctor tells me to stop walking around the estuary, even if it’s with a dog. On the ride home, the driver tells me to stay away from Surfer’s Corner. There have been assaults there. Walking to the store, a car pulls off and I think about Peter’s newspaper article.
Me, too. Violence is woven into the fabric of my country, and sometimes I don’t know whether to feel relieved that I feel at peace despite it or disgusted that I have to find peace because of it. Me, too.
This morning, I walked to surfer’s corner. A man doing development work in the street shouts “Hello.” I don’t turn my head. In South Africa, you must keep your eyes front and centre, but this man keeps shouting, “Have a beautiful day, Ma’am.”
I’m reminded of why I insist on staying in this violent country.
The tone in his voice has left me feeling an odd kind of happiness today. The kindness of strangers often does. Do you know a lot of men like that? Yes, me, too. I run into them more often than I feel afraid.