The city after dark
"What's that?" my husband said. Even in the dim streetlights, I could clearly see what he was pointing at: a big gob of spit on the driver-side window of my car, which had oozed down all the way into the door handle I would now have to open.
I'd circled a long time for even this parking spot. Except for the street the restaurant is on, this area of the city is poorly lit and we've seen people getting arrested in front of one of the boarded-up high-rises just a block up the hill. The big "dead end" sign made me feel trapped, but at least it was only a quick walk.
It was clear why the spot was still untaken: rather than edging up alongside the curb, the beat-up green sedan to my left had parked at a bad angle so that I could just barely squeeze in next to it.
After dinner, I was embarrassed to ask my husband to walk me to my car. I never have before.
"What a jerk," my husband said when we realized what had been done to my car. I agreed and hugged my arms in close.
But the next day, I still couldn't shake what had happened. So I called my sister.
"It's like he violated you," was the first thing she said.
And that was it: my property is an extension of me and it did feel like a violation. Additionally, what he had done was not with an object—but with a physical part of himself. There was this implication that he could have done something even more damaging. He could have scraped the paint or flattened a tire or even waited here for me until I got back.
I can reach out and touch you, was the message.
My sister had named what it was, the feeling in my core: It was fear. But I traveled around Spain on my own when I was in high school! I lived in Chinatown in college!
"You shouldn't be embarrassed," my sister said. "That's just the reality of the world we live in today: there are just places women can't go alone after dark."
And isn't that perhaps the saddest part? She's right of course. Today, walking around my city, I feel afraid, vulnerable, in a way that yesterday I didn't.
Even after I've washed my car clean.