Space on the Bus

Video belongs to TotallyBiased

Street harassment is not flattering. It is annoying and gross and even terrifying, and it happens all the time. This is how it feels.

A group of men in team jerseys sit in the back, catcalling up the aisle as women board. A group of men in suits tell a woman to sit by them, then laugh and yell insults when she ignores them. A man sits behind me, then again when I switch seats. Another man sits across from me, and follows me off onto a deserted street. They are all old enough to be my father.

Can’t we get some space on the bus?

One bus driver smirks at me when I board. He ignores my stop request, even as I stand at the front of the aisle and point out his mistake. He only pulls over to pick up a new passenger, two stops later.  I take the bus at a different time. When I see That Passenger, I am glad my haircut renders me unrecognizable. Instead of rambling about virginity again, both flirting with and infantilizing me, he barely glances up.

Can’t we get some space on the bus?

People don’t sit next to me as often when I wear my baggiest hoodie. One man jumps when he sees my skirt, and changes course to sit next to instead of across from me. I dress to pass as male. It works. I get some space on the bus.

Men stare at me one the bus and subway. I watch their reflections in the dark windows. They never look above my shoulders. I turn around. They refuse eye contact. Their reflections continue to dart glances at my legs, my butt. I plan escape routes in case one follows me again.

A cab driver at a red light honks as I pass him. A teenage boy smacks my butt as he runs past. Young men elbow each other as I walk past and stare at me as they discuss the various merits of my body. Older men leaning against walls tell me to smile. I walk quickly so they won’t bother talking to me. I practice expressions in the mirror until I find the most intimidating one that isn’t actively threatening. I consider buying mace.

Home is sanctuary, and outside that cage is the zoo. Can’t we leave home without being put on exhibit? Can’t we exist in public as humans with things to do instead of objects of amusement?

Can’t we get some space on the bus?

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