I used the Companion app to walk myself home last week with a virtual companion.
I resented every moment of it’s presence in my pocket. Even though it was helping me. I resented it’s existence. Even though it made me feel safer.
I resented it because I needed to be made to feel safe rather than feeling safe naturally.
I left my brother at Broad Street and told my phone where I was going. I told it to tell my girlfriend if anything happened to me.
On the way home, in the space between street lights, I turned to see if anyone followed me.
Shadows lurking at a corner up ahead, a group of four, sent me walking across the street to avoid an unwanted situation. When I passed them a block later, they proved to be three teenage girls.
From a distance, every shadow is menacing.
I remember being younger, in high school, a friend asked me to walk her to her door from the car that was dropping us off, down her dark street in Port Richmond.
I don’t know what she thought I would be able to do if we were threatened, but I agreed, and walked her to her house in my combat boots and pleather jacket, trying with all my might to ooze the type of confidence I had seen men saunter with.
On my way back from her door, I passed an alleyway.
Shadows separated from the shadows of the alley wall, growing larger as they drew closer.
“Here, kitty kitty,” one of the shadows whispered. Menacing.
Heart in my throat, I bolted down the street to the safety of the car and jumped in. I imagine I looked like an action movie stunt person. I told the person in the car to drive.
A short distance down the block, the alleyway gave birth to lurking shadows. I sat in the car, shaking.
We anchor ourselves, we of the femme persuasion, to safety zones. Our apartments, the brilliance of night-erasing street lamps, the arms and company of friends. We anchor ourselves there and stretch to the ends of tethers, hoping that we will not be cut loose.
We need apps to walk us home. Because walking home is not safe.
We send texts to let family members know we are alive. Because they worry otherwise.
The world outside of our safety zones is not a safe one. We careen from one into the other, traversing the intervening space as quickly as possible. We plan the shortest routes.
When people tell me that gender equality is over. When they say we don’t need feminism. I ask them to explain to me why, if that is true, I am so terrified to be on the streets alone at night.