Restless, lighting a cigarette off the one before, my fingers already itching to roll another as soon as this one sparks. Boots heavy on the pavement and my feet making a little indoor swimming pools for my socks to soak in. Summer night heat. Sun still trapped in sticky tar as the road slumps restlessly back to sleeping, woken sporadically by the rumble of trucks. Me and the stray drunks stumbling home and the furtive kids on the run and the truckdrivers rattled by their uppers and distance. Just us then.
So I am walking through little pockets of heat like it is a still creek and the sunlight is dappled. It is easy then to imagine the streetlights as daylight and I keep to the dark, dark patches between where it might be cool, but it isn't. Hair hiked up and staked in place with a stick snapped off a tree. Neck sweat wet and it is 2 am or it is later, earlier. I have that odd early morning sensation of sea-sawing between the day to come and the day before, both equally eventful in small ways. I have seen flowers spiral to the ground. I have stomped past a girl crouched in the gutter crying. Someone running for a train and the drama of a door sliding shut only seconds before her hand could touch it. I have seen a fight, not a fist fight, but a pushing and shoving and a grabbing of shirts. These things have marked yesterday and will continue to lay a trail into tomorrow.
Boys. Drunk boys. Three AM boys. I put my head down, I become a trajectory. I have somewhere to go. I am tempted to look at my watch just to underline this point, but I don't have a watch and where would you be going at Three am if not home.
I don't know where home is anymore. I lean towards Petrie Terrace, Spring Hill, Auchenflower, places where the ones I love are sleeping, but I will not be seeking them out at this hour. I am not going anywhere particular. I am just walking.
They fall into step with me. Drunken step. They are a synchopation of trips and slurs and laughter. They are all brash chat. Out late honey. Sweeeet young thing. Girly girly. Watch out for unsavoury types, warn the unsavoury types. Beware of drunk boys, say the drunk boys.
I pick up pace. No point realy. No use running from three boys. I have never run particularly fast. I am a talker. I will negotiate my way out of this one. This is what I think.
This is what I say:
Them: Where are you going little girly girl
Them: Funny, we are going there too. Home to your home. Home with you.
Me: Ah well, I'm not going home immediately.
Them: Well you are going to our home then.
Our home. Their home. So this, again is it. This is another kind of it. I know how it feels to have your hands pinned above your head. This will be different. Better, perhaps. They are strangers, easily forgoten. I know the hurt when someone takes your body and your pride and your self respect all at once. I am raw from it and yet, here, with this new threat so close, and beer bleary at my back I feel that there is nothing left for them to take. I have been taken. There is nothing of me to be careful of.
I turn around and they are there in front of me. They are a sway of sweat stink and beer stink and man stink. Three stinking men and I can bare them. Whatever they will do I am up for it. If they kill me what then? If they rape me, well haven't I already practiced the fine art of surviving. If they spit and piss and shit, then it will just be part of this endless day and night and day and another to follow and more and I want it to stop now and I want it to be over now.
Me: I am going to walk back to the city now. I am alone and it is dark and you could drag me off the road and do whatever and you probably wouldn't be caught, but I am going to walk back to a bar where there will be people to look out for me and I am not scared. I want you to know that I am not scared of you.
I push past them. I smell the man stink on them. I feel their damp skin. I am alone and I might die in a minute or not yet or much later and I don't care.
I am all boots and pavement and puddles of summer heat in the air. I am resigned. I am a shrug. I am untouched and unharmed and unmolested.
At some point I turn back to look and they are gone. All bark perhaps, but I am hurrying suddenly. I am scared. My hands shake. This wave of fear comes on suddenly, and when it is over I am standing outsude the dull thud of a bar and I can start over. One foot in front of the next. Almost Four am. Almost another day. A future, another wade through hot sun sweat and airconditioned oases. This is my life now. This is the way it is and the way it will be. I turn again. No place to go except forward into tomorrow, and I walk on.