Otherwise, I wouldn’t have found myself wandering down Bloodworth street at 9:30pm, clutching a laptop in my arms (didn’t think to put it in a carrying case, of course), and searching for the parking lot where I’d left my car. Another girl from the meeting I had been at had offered to walk me part of the way, and when we’d parted, I had been sure that my car was in a lot around the corner. But apparently, it had since become a school. And the neighborhood had become dark, and empty.
“I’ll be fine,” I thought, walking rapidly up and down the eerily silent streets, squinting into the darkness. “God protects drunks and children. Last night I was drunk, and now I’m acting like a child.”
A couple of guys shouted at me from across the street. “You having a good time?” they yelled.
I said “Maybe.”
I was reminded of the nights I used to stumble home at 4am through the dark backstreets of Honolulu in a miniskirt and flip flops, usually talking on my cellphone (it was still 10pm on the Mainland!). I remembered getting lost coming home from CBGB in lower Manhattan in high-school, feeling unusually frightened and vulnerable in fishnets and army boots.
Brian and I have occasionally butted heads about what I consider to be his overprotectiveness. I’ll call him as I’m walking home from somewhere late at night, and he’ll splutter, “I can’t believe you’re out this late by yourself! Get a cab right now!” That’s also my mother’s mantra. “Don’t take the subway home if you leave the party late,” she told me, night after night. “Just take a cab.” I loathed spending the money, and — I know this is sad– doing the math to calculate a tip. I just really hate math, particularly money-related math, under pressure. And I like walking. So I rarely take cabs.
In Honolulu a friend was furious when he found out that I frequented a certain sketchy downtown bar without him. “You go to the Hideaway by yourself?” he exploded. “Please don’t ever go to that place without me.” I was indignant. “I’ll go anywhere I want to go by myself,” I said, feeling resentful. I knew he spoke out of a desire to protect me; that he didn’t mean to imply that I was incapable of taking care of myself. He trusted me; it was the rest of the world he didn’t trust. But still.
Sometimes it feels like there is a fine line between independence and self-reliance, and using common sense to avoid putting yourself in certain situations. On the one hand, you don’t want to spend your life being afraid. On the other hand, strolling around late at night in an unfamiliar neighborhood clutching a laptop is not really a recipe for safety. Maybe I need to work harder at finding that balance.