All the Ways I Could Die on that 5-Minute Walk

Gillian Sisley

A reflection of walking alone at night as a woman.

Photo by Jason Edwards on Unsplash

2 years ago, I bought a house that’s only a 5-minute walk from my parents.

I didn’t plan it that way-- I actually intended to buy a place in an area about a 15-minute drive away.

But when you’ve found the right house, you know.

And so, here I have lived, in a quiet little Canadian suburb on the East Coast, where nothing spectacular ever really happens.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m safe. That doesn’t mean that nothing will ever happen to me.

Because at the end of the day, I’m still a woman. And this world simply is not safe for me.

And even on those 5-minute walks on quiet nights in the well-lit burbs, there are still a variety of ways I could be attacked, violated or killed.

But I’m nothing special, this is simply the dance of the modern day woman.

Thinking of all the ways you could be attacked, so that you’re ready in the case of an attacker.

Wondering if this innocent night’s walk might be your last…

Every woman has done this, or still often does.

Because the reality is, the world is simply not a safe place for women.

Even one who’s 5’8 and lives in the suburbs with white picket fences.

There is still a risk for us in going out, daytime or nighttime.

In the daytime, the harassment is more obvious and direct, and for some reason is less scandalous.

In the night time, there’s more cause for worry. Only people with the worst intentions harass during the nighttime.

Or so they say.

Because I have a few solid memories of feeling unsafe due to the actions of an entitled man during the day.

But I guess something about the sun being out is supposed to lessen our violation, or upset, or offence.

I know this night walk well.

A 5-minute walk is simply not long enough to validate taking my car.

Plus, this is MY neighbourhood. I pay taxes to keep it neat and upstanding. I have the right to walk on the pavement I’ve helped pay for.

And so, for those 5 minutes, I walk from my parent’s house to my own.

After so much time, I’m familiar with all of my escape routes.

I know the point from which I would either run directly to my own home, or back track to my parent’s place, depending on where an attack might happen.

I know the shortcuts through the woods that could pop me directly into a coldasac where 6 houses full of people could hear my screams.

I know the most likely places where someone could hide, obscuring themselves in the bushes, waiting for their next victim so that they might pounce.

I’ve practiced the sound of my enraged scream in my head, loud and urgent enough to spark the attention of one of the nearby houses, with its tone creating zero confusion or doubt that a woman was truly in trouble.

I’ve done this dance many a-time-- I’m prepared for just about anything.

But I really shouldn’t have to be.

I’ve imagined my abduction take place more times than I can count.

I’ve wondered how long it would take my mother to either send my father searching, or call the police when she didn’t receive my “I’m home" text.

I’ve considered which personal belonging I would hold and drop on the sidewalk to signal something terrible and sudden had happened.

That Eiffle Tower keychain I purchased while in Paris with my mother would be a dead giveaway that the keys were mine.

When it comes to an abduction, every second counts. Which is why I know I need to make mine as worthwhile as possible.

Leave evidence behind, sound a red alarm, whatever it takes.

And I’ve watched enough True Crime TV episodes to know that the worst thing that could happen is being moved to a secondary location.

And so, I have every damn intention to put up one hell of a f*cking fight so that that doesn’t happen.

Most nights, if I’m feeling extra paranoid, I walk with my keys between my fingers. Surprise me, and you’ll get a gut full of metal.

Last night, I felt particularly safe, as I had a long umbrella with a metal end. I’d brought it in case of rain-- I walked back with it in case of attack.

The metal stem at the end, which lost its little end knob years ago, would make a fine stab-and-run device.

Final word.

Despite feeling safer than usual last night, with an item that could be used as a legitimate weapon, I still went through the motions of scanning my surroundings, remaining on high alert, and running through my battle plan in case of attack.

I passed a few men on the way, most wearing earbuds (a luxury I can’t afford), and as they passed I sang a silent mantra of,

“Don’t attack me, don’t attack me, don’t attack me.”

Each time they passed without incident, I let out a sigh of relief.

I let the rest of the tension in my body out once I see my house, once I know that it’s both within screaming and running distance.

I thank God for my nosy neighbours across the street who always have an eye on the neighborhood and my comings and goings-- they’d be the first ones to know if something went wrong.

The closer I get to the house, the more I ease. Though only 20 some feet away, my bedroom window is open, and so my fiancé, sleeping soundly, would hear if I was in trouble.

He’s all muscle and protective instinct. He’d jump out of bed butt-naked and race outside to beat the crap out of anyone who lays a hand on me.

I’m safe, as soon as I’m in my home with the doors locked, and have surveyed the street to ensure no one has followed me.

I shouldn’t have to be on such high alert in my own neighbourhood and home.

But of all the targets walking around with me each night, I am most likely one of the easiest.

Simply because I’m a woman.

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