I was your prey. I’ve been prey to men before, but always to someone I knew. Never a stranger. It was terrifying and degrading—to sit across from you and have you growl at me, bite through the air at me, and stare intently for minutes that seemed like hours that would never end.
When you first started staring, I just smiled. My default is to trust people, and I myself am certainly guilty of letting my eyes linger a little too long upon someone else. But then you moved—you growled and bit through the air at me. I did not react, and yet you were still elated. Your friend, sitting behind me, egged you on and encouraged you. I was, quite literally, cornered. Trapped.
You saw my ID badge for work. “Oh, you’re a librarian”—I tried to turn my music up louder—”I’ve heard you all are really freaky.” You kept staring intently, aggressively at me. I grimaced, but it probably looked like a smile to you, because you smiled again and chuckled satisfactorily. (I’m not freaky. I’m on the asexuality spectrum, so this entire situation was all the more uncomfortable for me.)
You continued to stare for several more minutes, trying to make eye contact as I tried to avoid it. I turned my music up louder, and I wondered who would believe me if I told them how a stranger on the bus had sexually harassed me and made me feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. How on a crowded morning bus, no one had done anything. Had anyone even noticed? I ran through scenarios in my mind of what I would do if you followed me off the bus: who I would run to in the hospital or at work if you kept pursuing me. Luckily, you did not follow me, and I was able to escape physically unscathed.
Emotionally, it took me several days to process what happened. Truth be told, I’m still not quite sure I fully understand what happened. That first day I worked slowly. That night I was angry. The second day I mostly slept. The third day I felt like rays of light might just be breaking through my storm clouds. Today, I am okay. I am still hurt and angry, but I am okay.
I know I am lucky—that harrassment is all that this was. So many others who identify as women are not as fortunate as I was to get away. For that, I am grateful. And for them, my heart hurts.