Out, Alone
by Maria Nestorides

It’s a balmy spring afternoon
and I’m on my way to the craft shop
where I’ve booked a class
to make a heart-shaped wreath for my wall.
And I am still waiting…

I park my car wherever I find a spot,
but this is New York City, and
I need a good five minutes to walk to the shop.
A group of young men are huddled together
outside a shop, laughing and joking.
Ask any woman you know. These men
could be as harmless as a bee in the middle
of the ocean, but
to a lone woman, a group of men being loud
and raucous is a clear and present danger.
And I am still waiting…

Alert sounds scream in my mind,
my flight or fight signals are going crazy.
Adrenaline rushes through my body,
preparing me to do whatever I need to do—fast.
Are my trousers too tight? Is my top too revealing?
If I cross the road to the other side will I provoke them?
If I stay on the same side of the road, will I provoke them?
If I look at them, will I provoke them?
If I don’t look at them, will I provoke them?
Why didn’t I buy a can of pepper spray?
And I am still waiting…

I clutch my car keys between my knuckles
with the metal jutting out, ready to attack,
if I need to. Silly, I know. What chance
would I stand against a bunch of men?
I pass them by, and exhale sharply
in relief as they don’t even seem to notice
I exist. It looks like I’ll be making that
heart-shaped wreath after all.
Others have not been as lucky.
Others have not lived
to write about their experience.
#notallmen are the same but I am
still waiting for the day
when all women can walk free,
when they can do so without fear.

PAINTING: Walking Woman by Balcomb Greene (1949). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem after reading about the recent kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard in London, as she walked home after visiting a friend. Rest in Peace, Sarah and all other “Sarahs.” May you be the last to have to suffer like this.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus. She is married and has two adult children. She has an MA in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her short stories have appeared in Silver Birch Press, The Sunlight Press, The Story Shack, Inkitt  and she has also contributed a six-word memoir to the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure, by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser (Jan 6, 2009). You can visit her on Facebook and Twitter.