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Note to Self: Take Another Route

I've started to carry my house keys in between my fingers now. It used to be only when I was coming home at night after choir practice when no matter the time of year, I always seemed to get home after the sun went down.

My neighborhood used to be a huge part of the industrial ring in Philadelphia during the first decade of the 1900s and a century later, most of those factories and mills have long since closed down, being replaced with either gigantic, metal shells of steel, exteriors of crumbling, graffiti-ed brick, or expansive lots where some people choose to dump their garbage, needles, old mattresses, et cetera. These abandoned buildings basically leave this place with multiple hiding spaces and narrowed alleyways that are overrun with big leaves that make everything look like a forest. A literal urban jungle, I suppose.

Due to my surroundings, beginning when I was little, my mother instilled in me so many rules in order to keep me safe.

Walk in the street when you're alone because people could drag you into the alley and hurt you.
Never take the exact same route home every week because people could follow you.
If you walk somewhere, walk where people can see you.
Someone asks for your wallet, throw it to them and then run.

Needless to say, I'm a nervous wreck on a near constant basis, but highly prepared for the worse at all times and when it's raining and nobody is outside, I get to pretend I'm in the middle of Dickensian England. A Dickensian England dotted by Chinese takeout places and five dollar nail salons.

I usually cut through a vacant (albeit, clean) lot to get home from the train. Most days, I get to my house when all of the other students from the more local schools do, despite my school being an hour and a half away from home by train and bus. Anytime I see a man, I keep my head down; I don't make eye contact, as if to say, "Just please leave me alone."

A group of young guys, four of them sat on the wooden fence around the lot and my heart started racing. I suddenly got very interested in my moccasins. Then I looked up (so I wouldn't look vulnerable), and then chickened-out and looked down again when one of them went, "Psst..."

Just keep walking.

"Psst..." and after a few moments of not turning around, an old, trampled on McDonald's cup went soaring past my head while I heard the sound of him calling me an ugly hoe and the rest of his friends giggling. Giggling at an ugly hoe dodging a thrown cup or giggling at their friend being ignored by an ugly hoe in torn moccasins and a pilled choir sweater, I really didn't know.

All I know is that something like that would have never happened to one of my male cousins. Or one of my uncles. Or one of my guy friends. They're men, so they don't owe themselves to anybody and they're not ugly if they ignore you either.

I've never felt so humiliated as when I put my two keys in between my fingers while the sun was still out.


  1. There's such an ugly sexual element that seeps into insults and curses from men to women. It's degrading and meant to be predatory and establish a power dynamic. I'm sorry you have to deal with that in your daily life.

  2. That's what makes me upset. The fact that just because I'm a young woman, certain men immediately believe they have power over women, as if women owe them the time of day. It's sad because I've seen boys as young as five or six act like this so I know they learn it from their parents, brothers, uncles, etc.

    Thanks for the comment!


  3. Ugh. I am sorry that you had to go through that. On another note, I am so happy that you started a blog! I first found out about you on Already Pretty and just love your writing.

    1. Thank you for your kinds words. I try to take situations like these and learn as much as possible from them. Instead of just getting angry, I like to question why things are the way they are.


  4. Dear Nicole,

    I just got a new (old) digicam from someone who upgraded. I was wondering if you are in need of one, since your last one broke. Mine's pretty old, but it's in perfect working condition and has battery charger and small memory card.

    Let me know if so and perhaps I can send it to a parent's work address or something. You can reach me at couturgatory.blogspot.com or e-mail me at ashirai at gmail dot com if you'd like it.

    1. Oh, wow. Thank you so much for your offer. I'm doing a photography course at JHU so the tech department loaning us DSLRs (!) and I've already saved most of the money for a new digital camera once I get back to Philly, so that won't be necessary.

      But thank you so so much for offering. It really means a lot to me that you would be willing to do that and I greatly appreciate it.


  5. I'm so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for writing about it.