Rain comes at seven –
ten past, you want to walk outside.
Dinner, you pronounce,
can sit in the yellow light of the humming fridge:
in the yellow light of evening, we go out
and look at things. I’m starving,
and if this helps, you keep it to yourself.
In the bushes nothing moves. The wind
whips up the rubbish, circles, biting grit,
then lapses. Gulls shriek at nothing, trees
wrecked by too much summer, slump,
and I agree we’ll sleep in different rooms,
and dinner spoils. Rain stops at eight:
at nine I go to bed and dream of heat
that steams the wet off pavements,
dries the air.
The sun is out, the people out in droves. All sudden arms, all walking stopped on grassy verges, legs outstretched.
Edinburgh’s blinding flash of summer-white, stark black tattoos. There are unexpected head-stands to walk past, bright blue smoke to breathe in, the hot smell of meat charring.
Frisbees, plastic butterflies new to the curve of air currents.
Deep shadows for the cultivation of goosebumps.
Most clouds that come, blow on. Those that bring rain have warmed it tepid. It hisses on the sausages it hits.
On the bus, skin sticks to the seats.
The windows are opened: breeze. The windows are closed: the capturing of our breath.
Tiny little thing for wonderful friends and sunshine:
Outside the swimming pool in early June
you kiss the way you’ve learnt to kiss and
I am dripping cold on your bare skin:
the contrast makes you flinch.
It takes six minutes to get to my old house from the tube after 9pm.
You have to run it – or as near as run it – for it to take six minutes. Walking takes ten.
I know, still, when the corner shop shuts, when the off licence shuts, what time the last bus comes and when the lights in the houses I’d have rung the bell of went out.
I can’t find my lipstick, but I keep my rape alarm in the top pocket.
Don’t walk home in heels. Don’t walk home alone. Don’t take short cuts, don’t dip down alleys, walk, if the road is quiet, down the centre of it, facing the traffic, because it is probably safer than walking hugged to the wall at the side of the road.
Remember to scream. Remember which parts of the male anatomy are sensitive. Remember where you last saw another person. Remember you are like a window left open or a door left unlocked. Always, unwittingly, you are an invitation.
I am scared of men.
I am scared of men in bars who try to talk to me. I am scared of men on buses at night. I am scared of groups of men at bus-stops, in cinema foyers, on trains.
I am frightened if men cat-call me and worried if a man I don’t know tries to engage with me.
Not all men are interested in hurting me – or anyone. Most of them are just like me, and are walking home thinking about what they’ll have for tea, or what they’re working on, or something they read in the paper. Most of them don’t think about violence much, against anyone, male or female.
But I can’t tell. I have never been able to tell.
Probably, I’m paranoid. Probably, lots of things, but I can’t shake it.
I’d like to walk around without the thinking about potential violence. I’d like to unlearn men-as-threat. I’d like to assume that there’s no difference between my body and the male body when it comes to vulnerability.
I’d like to walk home at night un-anxious.
And it isn’t just walking home. Its watching your drink and its people you know and its growing up not understanding that coercion is not consent because you’ve been taught that sexual interaction is a form of valuation and you want to be valued.
And its all the silence. All the brave-face silence and the not complaining because nobody wants to be that girl, because female speech is frightening and squashed in more ways than can be counted. Quiet perniciousness.
The assumption that somehow, by dint of being female [Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit] this stuff is my fault.
And it makes me absolutely fucking furious.
[And I loathe that we are so, so deeply entrenched in all this fucking shit that when I am not cat-called or harassed I have been taught to feel as if I have failed, as if I am not desirable, as if I am not valuable enough to be of notice.]
Lots of people say this better than me, more eloquently, use statistics.
Lots of people have been through worse. Lots of people will say – and rightly – NOT ALL MEN.
But I don’t know if you’re ‘Not All Men’. I have no idea if you’re about to strip my personhood away from me, violently, to enact societal power structures.
And if you’re not all men? Please compensate. Please cross the road away from me at night. Please acknowledge your status as potential threat and behave respectfully. Pull your friends up for making rape jokes. Stop making rape jokes.
Remember that women (and no, I don’t speak for all of them), go around with the threat of male-enacted violence somewhere in their consciousness all the time.
Imagine that. Imagine how fucking tiring that is.
Dismantle as far as possible your relationship with dominant power structures that teach you that my body has a different currency value to yours, and my personhood does, too.
I’m sorry about all of this. It might not be your fault, but it certainly isn’t mine.
of linen sheets
There is a cliff-edge I can remember when my breathing pulls up short. A brief spit of headland on the edge of Islay, where the land doesn’t as much meet the sea as peter out, gobbets of rock jutting out of shallow water.
There are birds there: nothing rare, only liquid blackbird song and the ‘hew-wheel’ mew of seagulls.
Sea pinks growing out of rock. Short grass and lichen in every imaginable shade of grey.
I leant my head against the rock there. Curious insects in my hair, the sound of the wind, the smell of wet soil.
That eternity feeling, that’s all.