'Home ok, night x'
Updated: Jan 29
We've all been there. Variations on a theme, sure, but we've all been in a situation where a taxi hasn't been available, we've walked a friend home first, we've missed a lift or been 'only round the corner'. We promise to text everyone when we get home. These days we might even share our live location, although I often think this is more 'clues to find my corpse' than an actual way to get help. Sometimes we walk in heels, or a short skirt and sometimes we've had a few drinks. We might curse ourselves silently for our choices, not that we should, and not because we are 'asking for it', although that's probably the line an elderly male MP will trot out should anything happen after we say goodbye to our friends and head into the dark.
The second we are alone, a little voice in your head suggests it might be a mistake. We scan around. What side of the road is lightest? Can we see anyone around? Other women, probably fine. One bloke, to be avoided. Group of lads, definitely to be avoided.
Scary films flicker in our mind's eye. Sometimes we can't even save ourselves from a dream. Think straight, woman. Think sense.
Have we got a weapon? I've got my keys, my phone, maybe a bag. Probably not much else. We might put a number in our phone, ready to call, finger over the call button, but we are not sure what this would do, or how quickly we could get help. Best tuck my keys into my fist again, although I have no idea in reality whether keys in a fist have any effect with my puny punch.
Walking quickly, head down.
There's a man behind us.
He's walking quickly too. We glance but avoid eye contact. Not sure what difference that makes. Somehow, if we look at them, or run, we just know that will be the start of it. Like the beginning of a race we know we will lose. He's walking faster. He's faster than us. Taller than us. Physically stronger than us. This is it, we think. He's going to push, or grab us. He's going to pull us by the hair or the coat, he's going to strangle us with our handbag strap.
What was the self defence video the algorithms brought up? How do we avoid being strangled? How would we get out of duct tape? What do we do if a man has us by the throat?
He's gone past us. Relief floods in for a moment. Fate was on our side.
Did he have to do that? Could he not have crossed the road? Doesn't he know we are terrified? Or did he know full well and do it anyway?
Breathing faster now but trying not to make it obvious. Walking the long way to avoid the cut through. People laugh in a window and it makes us jump. Is that a man or a tree? Is this just a bit pathetic? We roll our own eyes, scared of a shrub.
We keep walking.
We run into the porch. Visions of zombie movies where an arm comes round after the hero makes us slam the door. We brace our leg against it in case anyone was following unseen. Fumble with the keys, get in the door, shut it quickly, flick on the nearest lamp. Phew.
Text pals. 'home ok, night x'
That 5 mins walk was bad, but we are home now, we are safe. The ten minute walk of terror is reserved for lucky ones.
In darker moments, we know flagging buses is futile even in the kindest version of the daydream, and we fear all endings would be the same. No matter how quick or clever, at the end of it all, physical strength would be the deciding factor.
The reason that every time there is a collective outpouring of anger and grief from women when another of us is murdered, is the crystal clear knowledge that, on another night, in another town, it could have been any one of us.
Change has to come and it has to come now. We have to stop silently shrieking in our heads and start howling with rage for the world to hear.
Don't Wait Up is team ARCADE working with Hull Museums to start that collective howl - and we invite the women of Hull to join us: