|Photo Caption: the word "MINE" in flaming capital letters|
The other morning I was on the bus with a youngish woman, maybe late 40's, who, in answer to my question about whether or not she was going to work, said, "No, no, I'm going shopping." By then we'd been chatting and I knew that she, like me, liked to chat. I decided to ask her why she went shopping so early. The question stopped the conversation and I felt that I'd crossed into 'none of your business' territory. I do this more often than I'd like to admit but I always pull back right away, and that's what I did, "If that's just none of my business, I get it," I said.
She said, "No, it's not that, it's just hard to talk about. I go shopping early, even though I hate early mornings and it's harder for me to go in the mornings, because it's safer. I finally got tired of going to stores and being the odd person out. The person that everyone needs to watch. The person that everyone feels sorry for. The person that strangers need to comment on, loudly. The person that people feel free to touch, to advise. The person that takes up too much space. The person who ..." she paused, "isn't welcome. I couldn't take it any more."
I said, "I know that's a lot of social violence and it's tiresome, and truth to tell, it hurts."
"Social violence," she exploded, "that's it, that's what it is."
"So, it's easier in the morning?"
"Yes, there are fewer people and their either tired or wired and pay little attention to me. I can wander about because no one is making me feel that I shouldn't be there, shouldn't take up space. I don't have as much fun shopping, because I'm tired too, but it's easier." She paused again, "I guess I just gave up."
"You didn't give up, you were forced out, don't blame yourself for what others did to you," I said, "I find that there are times I just don't go out. Sometimes for several days, besides going to work, I just come home and stay home. Sometimes I just can't face it. I don't think that's weakness, I think that's wisdom. Knowing how to take care of myself when I live in a hostile world."
She looked at me and said, "I never thought about it that way, I just thought I was weak." She started to cry a little. I said I was sorry but she brushed my apology away. "No," she said, "it's not my fault, I thought it was, I needed to hear that."
The bus arrived, she got out, at the bottom of the ramp she said, "Next time I'm going when I want to, it's time to take back what's mine."