Turns out she was on a city bus – an almost empty city bus – and a man sits right next to her. Naturally, her guard went up and her Mace can came out. It makes me think about how many moments like this we, as women, experience every single day in public spaces. And let’s be honest, some days they grab even when we are surrounded by people and out in the open. This is about two such grabs.
I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed a few days ago and came across a post with something like the following, ‘Have my hand on the trigger of my Mace can just in the case the pervert grabs anything.’ I was scrolling pretty fast, as I think we all do most times, and then I went back to really look at it. Turns out she was on a city bus – an almost empty city bus – and a man sits right next to her. Naturally, her guard went up and her Mace can came out. This post is rare, at least in my circles, on Facebook. But it makes me think about how many moments like this we, as women, experience every single day in public spaces. And let’s be honest, some days they grab even when we are surrounded by people and out in the open. This is about two such grabs.
I am nineteen years old. It is a beautiful summer night in Chicago. It is one of those nights where you forget all about the bitterly cold winters and all you think is, this, this is home. Here I am, taking the Clark Street 22 bus after getting off of my second job at about 9:45 pm. At this point in my life, I am a full-time nanny for two shithead little kids. Well, one shithead little kid and one sweet little baby. I also work part time at Columbus hospital in the evenings. My days start at 6:15am and ends at about 11pm. I am wearing a fitted, white t-shirt and knee-length cotton skirt and my go to Chuck Taylors. The bus is so warm and rhythmic and I can feel my eyes closing. I know I can’t fall asleep on the bus. I am not going to fall asleep. I am just going to close my eyes for one minute. I’ll hear the bus driver when she says my stop anyway.
I wake up to his hand clamped firmly onto my right breast. – Now I am going to have to take a minute here. At nineteen, I weighed 87lbs and my cup size was barely a 32A. The Wonder Bra by Victoria’s Secret is a big seller. I am convinced I made them a billion dollar company all by my lonesome. What I am trying to say, is this, that guy got a handful of whatever the fuck was in those Wonder Bras. – I look down and without hesitation and with full-on rage I take the thing in my hands and I swing around and just start fucking bashing him on his head with it. Son of a bitch maybe should not have picked the day I was reading a hardcover copy The Witching Hour by Anne Rice to grab me.
The wonderful lady bus driver stops and kicks him off. All the other passengers avoid eye contact with me.
I am thirty-two years old. I am at the Taste of Chicago with my husband. It is hot and muggy. It is one of those days which make you wish for the cold blustery winds of winter. We are wandering aimlessly. Neither one of us wanting to eat anything. It is just too fucking hot. But, then I see chocolate covered strawberries, and all else fades. My husband offers to go get them alone to spare me the sun and the crowd. I take him up on the offer as I am already burnt from our earlier swim and the brutality of the sun. I choose a somewhat shaded spot about ten feet away. I am close enough to have a clear view of him in line. I light a cigarette, smoke, and people watch.
I never see him. I never have a sense of him. Not until he is right there. Not until his hand is on me. I look down at his hand and it is so large as it covers my left breast. It would cover my entire face. Why am I thinking this? Why am I seeing this? Fuck? I can’t move. I look up slowly and he is so fucking tall and so fucking big. Well over 6 feet. I judge by my friend David’s height. I can still see my husband. Out of the corner of my eye. But I am blocked from my husband’s view and his back is to me anyway. His hand is still on my breast. – By thirty two, unfortunately for me, I had matured. I no longer needed the Wonder Bra. I was now solidly in the C cup range. What I am trying to say is this, I had no padding, no protection, except for two very thin layers of cotton between his hand and my left breast. – He squeezes and I jerk. He moves his open shirt slightly and I look. I see the knife tucked into his waistband. So I stop moving. I am numb and paralyzed. I eventually dare to look at him. He smirks at me. Releases me and walks away.
I don’t remember the rest of this day. I only know what my husband tells me I did. When my husband came back, I tried to act normal. I also immediately wanted to go home. I ate one strawberry and threw the rest away. I developed an immediate migraine. I was silent the entire car ride. I took a scalding hot shower from head to toe when we got home. I put on full length pajamas and curled up under the covers with hot tea to try to get warm. And then I told my husband.