I got off the Grove Street PATH train, and started to walk down the platform to my exit. And as I was walking, I noticed this asshole in a suit, slamming his way through the crowds right toward me - as he passed each person, he didn't bother to swerve or alter his path, he just rammed into them, using his shoulder and upper body to move them aside while he assigned various obscenities to each person: slut, asshole, bitch.
I thought: fuck that.
He walked past me. He walked into me. I didn't step aside. As his body slammed into mine, I used my shoulder and pushed back. He didn't say anything to me, and I kept walking.
Two seconds later, I hear this coming from behind me:
"YOU THINK YOU CAN JUST PUSH ME, YOU FUCKING CUNT? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?" He grabbed my arm and I stopped walking and looked into his face. I could see for the first time that I'd made a mistake: this guy was batshit crazy. Shiny eyes, unshaven and disheveled - he had that look, you know? He was fucknuts, in the bad way. And yet, I just wasn't in the mood. So I turned away and started walking again. He came after me again, shouting and pushing at my back as I kept moving:
"YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT BITCH, YOU LISTEN TO ME! YOU THINK YOU CAN JUST GET AWAY WITH PUSHING ME BECAUSE YOU'RE SOME MOTHERFUCKING WOMAN?"
I stopped and turned around. He stood in front of me, and screamed.
"LISTEN YOU MOTHERFUCKING BITCH, IF YOU EVER FUCKING TOUCH ME AGAIN, I'LL PUNCH YOU IN THE FUCKING FACE! YOU THINK BECAUSE YOU'RE A WOMAN I WON'T? YOU THINK I WON'T? YOU THINK I WON'T?"
I hauled back and punched him in the chest. All the air went out of him, which was good, because I had something to say:
"So then DO IT. You're the motherfucking MAN. Punch me. Go ahead and PUNCH ME, you piece of SHIT. Be THE MAN and put me in my motherfucking PLACE."
He turned around and walked back into the crowd.
I started to walk again, albeit with rather shaky legs, and as I reached the exit, this guy leaned toward me and said, "What a woman, he wouldn't even fight you."
"He's not strong enough to be a woman," I shot back, and ran up the stairs.
Yes, what I did was stupid, and dangerous. Yes, he could have had a gun or a knife. Yes, he could have beaten the shit out of me, if he'd had the presence of mind to try - he was a big guy, and he was enraged. So yes, I should have just kept my mouth shut, kept my head down, and kept walking away.
But here's the thing:
Every single day I have to plan my route to the PATH very carefully, because no matter where I go, and no matter what time of the morning I go to work, I always get harassed. I'm always having to keep my head down, to avoid staring into men's eyes so they won't think I'm expressing interest, to bite my tongue when I pass clumps of construction workers who call me a bitch because I won't say "hi" back to them. I'm tired of being followed down the sidewalk while someone makes sucking noises and laughs with his friends, I'm tired of trying to cross the street only to have cars slow down so the driver can ask me if I want to suck him off. I'm tired of being punched and pushed and grabbed, of being called slut, whore, twat, cooze, cunt - I'm tired of it.
And sometimes I just get tired of keeping my mouth shut, keeping my head down, and walking away. Sometimes I just want to punch some fat crazy thinks he's oh so entitled motherfucker right in the chest, and call him on all his bullshit. Because, I have the right to go to work and earn my pay and go home without being treated like some walking void of a vagina that exists only to be beaten into submission and/or have cock crammed into it. But most of the time, I don't get to do that. I have to spend a considerable portion of my day thinking about how men view me, and how I'm supposed to act around them, and what might happen if I act the "wrong" way and attract their attention or piss them off. I don't get to sit on the train and daydream about my novel. I have to press my thighs together and pray the guy sitting across from me is licking his lips and grunting because he's eating his breakfast, not because he wants me to SEE HIM and THINK ABOUT HIM and STOP THINKING ABOUT MYSELF. I have to step out of the way, or let some asshole ram into me like it's a bull run. So every now and then, I figure I've earned the right to push back. Because, honestly, the weight of all those words and stares and grasps, the accusations that I'm nothing but a cunt, a bitch, a whore - sometimes I have to cast it all off every now and then. Sometimes it's too much.
Tomorrow I'll walk outside, and the construction workers across the street will start clucking and spitting at me, and it'll all start accumulating again, like dirt falling into a grave. But right now I feel light, balanced, free.
And that made tonight worth it.