Perhaps, this is why I think this might be an interesting question to ask. Here is the walk home I have just experienced, is this normal?
I walk along laughing with my friend and that’s all there is. We say our goodbyes, and I head home.
Instantly, I’m assessing my walk home, the long route versus impending risk via the short cut.
I’m feeling brave tonight, why shouldn’t I walk home the way I want?
I choose the shortcut but its dark and empty making me feel on edge. I go to call my sister for a chat but after three rings I recall some old self defence advice; don’t take comfort by being on your phone because, the reality is, you’re distracted and make yourself vulnerable.
Right, phones back in pocket. Within reach.
I walk in the middle of the pavement rather than favouring a side so I’m of equal distance to each potential place where someone could attack me.
I walk quickly and look at a spot on the floor to the right so I can use peripheral vision. The shadows dance from the street lamps and trees above me.
I see someone coming towards me. A guy on his own, within seconds I assess he is taller than me, broad and swaying slightly like he might have been drinking.
I walk a bit faster but straighten up, looking ahead and past him like his presence doesn’t even factor in my thoughts- I clench my fists and make sure my facial expression is serious.
He glances at me and I don’t flinch but as soon as we pass each other I look down at his shadow. He’s turned around looking back at me, I can see from the shadow of his cap. He is saying something but I can’t hear what he’s said. I’m walking faster now.
I walk to the end of the shortcut and I’m nearly home.
I walk past a dark Land Rover with two guys sat in the front seats talking to each other, waiting outside a house.
I’ve already slide my house key between my fingers and made a fist without noticing…
I get to my building and head to the lift; it’s broken so I have to take the stair case. It’s ok, no one’s there tonight.
At the top of the stairs two young guys come out of their flat with their hoods up, holding their bikes, stinking of weed. They ignore me but I say ‘hiya’ and try and catch their eye.
The smile politely and say hello. I feel bad for being judgemental.
I get to my flat and its dark; I look behind me as I unlock the door and reach round to put the light on before I even walk in. My boyfriend isn’t home so I put my bag down, look in the kitchen switch on the light, run upstairs switch the bathroom light on and glance behind the shower curtain before going downstairs and make myself a cup of tea.
I’m exhausted. As I write this I feel like perhaps I’m paranoid or dramatic but its second nature. This description is similar to every solo walk home I’ve had since I was 11.
In the safety of Durham to the streets of London every night, morning and day is the same.
I like to think I’m an average woman. So if this nightly tale/thought process is common place and my boyfriend recoils in hearing this unfamiliar reflection then surely, there is something seriously wrong.
This doesn’t feel, anything like freedom.