Rainy street, late night and no cabs stopping for me. I’m alone. I tag along a group of people walking in the direction of Lapa, feeling less than calm, but thankful for the rain and the plastic coat providing a blurry camouflage towards the world. Its a calm street really, and there are lots of people walking, I wouldn’t be scared if it wasn’t because I knew that I’m supposed to.
The group I walk behind turns the corner, I speed up, careful to take long assertive steps as you’re supposed to. A cabby stops for me.
”You can’t let a beautiful woman walk around in the rain alone, an ugly one is even okay, but not a beautiful one”
”Yeah right? Much less at this hour. But you know, sometimes I think it would be easier to be ugly”
”How is that?”
”Its not all the attention you get which is pleasant, like, lets say the kind of attention you get isn’t always the most respectful one…”
”Listen, you may not believe me, but I’m telling the truth: I beleive all women should be treated with care and love. I have many prostitutes for friends, I think, it doesn’t matter what a woman does or where she goes. When she is off work she is first and foremost a woman, not a prostitute, that’s just what she does, and she deserves the same respect and care as any woman does.”
”We are all human beings first and foremost, with the same dignity”
”Exactly. Would you believe I never lifted my hand against a woman in my life?”
I believe it, what I don’t believe is that it should be something phenomenal. But sometimes maybe it is. I go through my wallet for money but spent it all. I tell him I’m sorry but only have a hundred, he says he can change it, I discretely fish out a 100 reais bill from my bra.
He takes it and folds it delicately.
”This one from you I will take special care of. You are very beautiful”
I tell him that if I am beautiful all credit goes to God who made me as she made everybody.
”When God made you he was in love on the beach”
Our conversation is over. He waits until I’m inside the door. Upstairs in the hostel I re-feel this down I can’t seem to shake… A vague feeling of chock from the louring insecurity that lives in every dark corner in the street. The same one which used to make me run towards men, wanting them to protect me. Creating saviors in shiny armors from the broken up pieces of hope for decency lying around after so much gendered violence in so many brutally subtle forms.
Its a self negating circle of dependency when you rely on men to protect you from men, and it isn’t freedom.
A different kind of voice calls me up on the phone and soothes my torn nerves, puts the smile back behind my eyes…
I think of how much energy would be liberated for women if everyday machismo and its serial traumas were removed. More than half of the times I share my story with a woman (talking about the more serious ones here, and not just the everyday occurences), she tells me one back, stories which break your heart no matter how many you have heard. Stories invisible and unaccounted for in any statistics. Its not restricted to any specific geographical area or any culture although, obviously, some places are much worse than others.
I’m daunted by the thickness of the silences, and the cruelty of the events, but humbled by feeling how fast silence turns rawly felt connections and the cruelty of our experiences turns a deep feeling of sisterhood.