I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately. I come out of class at night, hair sticking to my forehead, leggings riding up my calves, shirt stuck to my lower back, my stomach. I take a deep breath and I hurry to my car.
Do you know what it feels like to hurry to your car? Maybe you’re late for work so you rush out of the front door, forgetting to blow out a candle. You worry about that candle all day. Maybe you’re so cold you can’t stand it and you run to your car, slipping, just barely, on fresh ice. You think about that almost-fall for the next few minutes.
Or maybe you’re rushing to your car because you’re afraid. It’s dark, and your body, slick with sweat, is scared. They asked you in yoga to fall into your sensations, to let go of that “fight or flight” breath. You never really did. Instead, fear gripped just a little more tightly. Your breath jumped, stuttered.
You never stop thinking about these next few minutes, they replay over and over again in your mind.
When you’re rushing to your car in the dark you have to stay alert. Your keys are between your fingers, sure, but you’re also watching your sides and behind you. Sidewalks covered in thick, dark foliage? Forget it. You’re better off in the street. You’re lucky if you’ve got streetlamps but don’t assume you’re going to be lucky.
You’re walking briskly. Your yoga mat, unfortunately, is in the way. It’ll do no good as a weapon. You remind yourself to buy one of those over the shoulder slings. (You already have two, but the reminding feels good, feels like you’re doing something).
You come out of yourself for a minute, smile at a stranger walking by, remember that you love your life and you love yoga and you love this beautiful city with its cracked sidewalks, its drooping trees, its narrow streets. Why are you so scared? Why do you live like this? A whirring, a swoosh, quick feet — a bike or a runner passes you; your body shakes, your heart drops. You walk faster.
The car is in your sights. This is the most important part, don’t get distracted, don’t look at your phone (you never would, but again, the reminder is nice). Take a scan of your surroundings. Keys held firmly between your fingers now, ready to push, deep, into an eyeball, because really, what the fuck else is a key going to do?
Don’t push the unlock button on the fob until you’re right up on the car. Push it and you give away your location with those blinking lights.
Open the driver’s door quickly, no matter how many bags or whatever you have, seriously, do it now. Get in. Hold everything in your lap or shove it in the passenger seat, lose no time in this stage. This stage is where you are most vulnerable. Don’t fuck it up.
Close the door. Who are we kidding. Slam it. Push. the. lock. button.
Do you know what it feels like to be a woman? Now that we have your attention — celebrities wearing black, Facebook timelines flooded with #MeToo — can we talk about the everyday experiences that still suck, the ones we’re so goddamn anesthetized to we forget we even live each day?
Have you ever felt afraid in the dark, walking to your car? Head full of yoga and body pulsing with energy — have your eyes filled with tears at the sound of a trash can rattling behind you? Because your fear goes that deep?
Last week, in a deserted Office Depot, I twirled absentmindedly on one foot, marveling at multi-colored sharpies while waiting for a document to print. That office supply stores even still exist is fascinating and I considered how I could write about the industry. And then I noticed a man looking at cell phone cases, his head just barely peeking over the display case two rows over. I waited for my document for 10 minutes. He never moved. I stopped twirling. I looked up, he looked down. And again. And again.
I dropped the story idea and felt defeated, clutching my arms to my chest. I didn’t know if I was projecting or if I was sensing real danger. It didn’t matter. Fear had won.
I grabbed what I needed, rushed out of the store, in the dark, to my car.
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Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.