I Won't Stay Calm

How can I possibly talk about just one harassment incident,
When I get harassed more than three or four times a day?

My life is full of harassment incidents.
There was once a teacher who got really close to me when I was asking him about something.
Our faces were just a few centimeters away from touching.
He noticed my annoyance and smiled.

And there’s also the guy who works at a supermarket next to where I live.
He winks at me whenever he sees me.
He knows it bothers me.

I’m not spared the looks of boys at private lessons.
I’m not spared the looks, the touching, and the comments of men in the street, cafes or the sports club.

I want to tell the story of an incident that changed me.
Perhaps older people think this change was for the worse,
But I don’t really care anymore.

I was in 12th grade.
My friend and I had just finished a private lesson,
And we were on our way to another one.
It was eight o’clock, so it wasn’t very late.
We were walking down the street.
People were staring at us and harassing us verbally.
Things like,
“What’s up, honey?”
“How’s it going, pretty face?”
It was the usual.
We had gotten used to it at that point.
We were chatting as we walked, as if we couldn’t hear anything.

While we were walking, we passed by a group of boys standing by a parked car.
My heartbeat quickened with fear. As usual.
We walked faster just to get it over with.
All of a sudden, one of them got close to me,
And pretended to kiss me on the cheek, without touching it.
He made a kissing noise.
He was so close to me that I could feel his breath on my skin.
They all laughed and I continued walking.

I didn’t say anything.
Even though I normally stand up to anyone who harasses me.
I even encourage my friends to do the same.
But I froze with fear.
And I kept walking.
Minutes later, I started crying.
I couldn’t stop crying.

I never hated myself as much as I did at that moment—sitting on the sidewalk, crying, before the private lesson.
My friend was with me, but she didn’t understand what was going on.
She didn’t ask.
If she had, I wouldn’t have answered her.
Because I know her reaction would just be a pat on the shoulder.
“It’s okay. Don’t do this to yourself.
It’s not like he actually kissed you.”

I no longer accept consolation following a harassment incident.
I’m not required to stay calm.
I’m required to stand up to them and hit them.
To push away whoever tries to assault me and invade my personal space.
I’m required to scold them and learn to defend myself.

I’m not supposed to keep looking down.
Or to act dumb and pretend not to notice.
Like my mother and grandmother taught me.
I’m supposed to raise my head high.
And face the animal who did it.

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