"Pushing herself to move forward in pointless misdirection, she found herself confronted by her surreal commute and the reality of her most recent memory, an unwanted sexual experience."
an excerpt adaptation from WOMAN BE COOL, a novel by Tanya H. Van Cott
“Why didn’t I fight? What the hell is wrong with me?” she said, trying to remember the sequence of events from the night before. “I was never interested in him. I couldn't have given him the wrong idea?”
Hot platforms, refrigerated cars, gusts of air, odors made more intense by the heat and fragments of conversations from hundreds of bodies always standing in close proximity. All trying not to ever touch or look at one another. Left alone with only her thoughts to accompany her, surrounded by others, all alone in their thoughts, she pushed herself to move forward in pointless misdirection, confronted by her surreal subway commute. Struck by the reality of her most recent memory she replayed the events, eyes closed while the subway rattled, shook and sped forward.
“A night of freedom and fun in a summer that lacked either, didn’t I deserve that? I did drink more than I should have or was used to, but doesn’t everyone do that now and then?”
She justify accepting rides home from different coworkers, mostly men, ones she hoped, she prayed, she could trust because as a cocktail waitress she frequently had to spend more than half of her tips on a taxi ride home, to a less than safe, outer Borough of New York City. And up until the previous night they were all without incident.
"I enjoyed laughing and finally feeling light. I didn’t mean to let my guard down, but I trusted them, I trusted him. I thought I was safe. Fuck!"
Her smile never divulged the heartbreak and loneliness she struggled with daily. Loneliness caused by a different young man one who purposefully kept her a bay. Men did show interest in her and tried to break through her veneer. Some showering her with miscellaneous kindnesses; like a dessert sent up from the kitchen nightly from a boy who had a crush on her; a drive home in a limousine when no other fare could be gotten; a carefree ride home, top down, in a convertible from a waiter who made ten times what she made and one bartender, who promised her a safe journey home after a night of freedom and fun.
"I’m the only one to blame for what happened,” she said convinced, clutching onto the cold chrome structure of her commute.
That journey was not in the direction of her choice though. A drive through a tunnel, was the first indication the night took a wrong turn. Underneath a river, into the darkness of streets that were unfamiliar. She tried to overcome her sense of confusion and intoxication. Blaming herself, for not being clear with him about which way to go she quickly realized she was in danger when his hand started caressing her inner thigh. She pulled away politely, trying not to tip the fragile balance of mood in the car. She tried to engage in more direct chatter about bridges, tunnels and wrong turns. But he pulled the car over in a dark spot just off of the highway, simultaneously pulled up her skirt up and her panties down. Miles away from where she wanted to be, even then, she blamed herself.
Still trying to understand the course of events she thought, “Why did I let him do it? I just wanted to get back to the apartment. That was my main goal. That’s why I didn’t fight? Because I was fucking scared, that’s why! Scared to be left on the street somewhere, scared to be hurt by male rage, eve now scared to say something." Something dark controlled her destiny, something that seemed out of her control.
Still in deep thought, as the subway hurled through space, she opened her eyes and looked more deeply into the faces she shared her daily journey with.
“Are they all as alone as I am? If I could just see everyone else’s struggles, my own might seem trivial.”
Was there an escape from her own ridiculous loneliness?
“Maybe getting off this ride at another stop would do it,” she said. But the doors just opened and then closed, opened again and closed again.
The Oped Files
Tanya H. Van Cott is currently finishing up a novel trilogy that captures a snapshot of our current social, political, and personal challenges as a nation and especially as women and men, within the Global community.