Life of a Woman

As I get ready to go for a run at 7:00 p.m., my mom calls out to me, “Don’t wear your headset.” I see the sky darkening through the windows and understand. I don’t have my brother with me, so I can’t listen to music. He can when he’s running by himself, but he’s a boy. I put on my shoes but skipped the winter jacket. It would make me warmer but also make my figure as a woman more noticeable. Before I leave the building, I tuck my two keys between my gloves, making sure they aren’t visible: I wouldn’t want to be seen as a threat. Then I practice pushing them out far enough so they could hurt someone if I was attacked. I check my figure in the hallway mirror to see if I look enough like a man. Passable, but you can slightly detect the breasts beneath my brother’s hand-me-down sweater and the curves of my hips under his hand-me-down sweatpants. Passable. As I jog through Brooklyn Heights, I watch every person I pass, peering into the cars, looking behind me, and running faster through the darker, emptier blocks. People, both a comfort and a threat. As my knee throbs and I slow to a walk, I make sure to not look injured. Being a woman is bad enough, but a weak one? Much worse. I picture how men walk and correct my stride several times. A bit of swagger, add that, they don’t touch their heads like that or raise their arm like that, stop that. After I get back inside my building, I feel like I can finally breathe again. My knee hurts. My soul, too. But I am safe. And that is enough.