I had a blissful few hours at my favourite coffeeshop/restaurant/cafe this evening. I read a really gripping book before and during my meal, then got a lot of really productive writing done afterwards, while drinking my favourite chai tea. It was a happy little bubble and a huge contrast to how I felt after I left.
The very first thing I noticed when I left the cafe was that the bars immediately next door had spilled crowds of drunken men (and women) into the street. Oops. I forgot it was midnight– it was only seven when I left my apartment! I fished my key out of my purse and put it in my pocket, and then I straightened up, looked straight ahead, put on my “I am invincible” swagger, and walked briskly in the direction of the parking lot. This involved considerable pain, as I took a bad fall earlier today, and have a sore ankle on one leg and a sore knee on the other, but I didn’t want to look vulnerable.
After I made it past the bars, I had to cross the street to get to the parking lot. The asshole who ruined my previous evening at this cafe was standing at the corner, playing his guitar angrily, immediately next to the “push to cross” button for pedestrians. I didn’t want to go near him and face his heckling, so I didn’t push the button, and just ran across when there was a suitable gap.
The parking lot was very full; I’d had to park way on the other end when I arrived. I clutched my keys in my pocket. My car key is a large-ish plastic rectangle with a metal key part that flips out like a switchblade, and this has always been a great comfort to me. I hold it like I would a knife, my finger teasing the “blade” of the key in and out and in and out, hoping that if anyone threatened me I could bluff them into thinking I really had a knife just from the metallic “swish!” noise it makes when it flips out.
Halfway through the parking lot, I reached the entrance where the cars drove in, and had to stand aside for a series of men driving in. I had to watch them to make sure they didn’t hit me, and they had to watch me for the same reason, but I studiously ignored the faces they made and the words they mouthed. I had a brief moment of terror when I thought one of them had slowed down to follow me to my car, but then he turned into another area of the lot.
The first thing I did when I got to my car was check the back seat to make sure it was empty. Then I got in and locked the door right away. Then I buckled, turned on the car, etc, and drove back to my apartment.
At my apartment, I had left my porch light on, knowing that otherwise I would be overwhelmed by the stress of convincing my finicky door lock to open for me. After about thirty seconds, my brain always starts whispering to me, “if this was a movie, you’d be dead by now.”
Inside my apartment, all my lights were on, because I left them that way on purpose. Same reason as the porch light. I take stock of the empty room, then do up two of my locks. (The third involves pushing the door out a little more to get the deadbolt to line up, and it makes the apartment very drafty, though it’s also the most solid lock so sometimes I do it up anyway.)
So now I’m back home, uneventfully. It was still, overall, a completely pleasant night out. Certainly, a pretty normal one. It’s just that when I’m making plans to go out by myself, I always have to balance the fun of whatever I’m going to do with what it’d going to be like to come home again. There are a lot of things that just aren’t worth it for me, especially if I have to walk more than a block.
I saw a man walking down the sidewalk while reading something on his phone, tonight. Not a care in the world.
I want to live in a world where I can do that, too.