Fear Is Holding You Back

by Amy Victoria Blakemore

Her whole life, Amy has been told that someday someone will try to
rape her. The message comes in a variety of words, hand gestures,
and horoscopes. She should not walk alone in the park at night; men
waiting in the shadows are as possible as crickets. It’s not ideal to
walk alone in the daytime, either, depending on the street (and really,
on any street, walking with a buddy is the smart thing to do). If
she drinks, she should drink something sealed that she herself opens
after checking for pinholes. She should tip the can upside down and
wait for the liquid, like blood from a splinter, to bubble from the metal.
There are many different ways Amy can protect herself from the
inevitable. She can scream, run, beg, claim to have an STD, hold her
keys between her fingers, cry, kick, curse God, curse having a vagina,
curse the frat kid in her philosophy class who claimed that pain is
a part of a large and beautiful human experience. Amy could gauge a
man’s eyes out. She could scoop the flesh behind his pupils and hold
it up in the air, dangling, like hair pulled out of the drain.

Tonight, Amy hears foreign voices outside her apartment. Could
she gauge out the eyes of a voice? Is this how we render things mute?

A few memorable evenings after work, not unlike this one, Amy
came home to find that her front door was unlocked, and she thought
to herself, This is the day, and she walked to the cutlery drawer and
pulled out the same knife as always and banged open every door and
held it there in the air, waiting for the moment when she might finally
drive it down the shoulder of a stranger and cleave skin from skin
and watch a world divide from itself.

Amy’s horoscope tells her, most mornings, that Something is going
to change soon. Some days she wishes rape could strike her once, like
lightning, so that it could be over with—so that she could stop waiting
for a violence that feels like a bad haircut from the same stylist
that everyone in town recognizes, laughing, you too? On her runs in
the park, Amy rolls her eyes at the catcalling, the amateur catcalling,
the hey girl and the get it girl and the [way a mouth is not supposed to
function when observing another human being]. Amy knows violence
must be chronic when she begins comparing it to shaving around her
kneecaps, knowing that the razor will eat her skin, swallow a cherry
red and honey-haired parting gift. Her heart feels geometric. Her
heart is an exceptional planner. She brainstorms witty things to the
say to her future rapist that might stop him mid-rape. She buys witty
things: pepper spray that slips into her bra, a copy of the knife to
place under her bed.

This is the day, Amy tells herself before bed, after hearing voices
whispering from the sidewalk across from her first floor apartment.
Her horoscope that morning: Fear is holding you back. Alongside the
text, a woman’s eyes stare up at her, wide, reflecting a man holding
roses. Amy waits for a thud on her door. She waits for a drumming
in her chest as her body prepares to refute her planning. She should
not be sleeping alone, alone in her own apartment without (at the
very least) a loving sister who can dial 911 before sliding her hands
down the wall, before scarring the rapist’s cheek with her nails. But
Amy’s heart is quiet and the blankets are cool. There are, as always,
a thousand ways that someone could break the bones of her house
and enter it.

“Let’s get on with it,” Amy says out loud, bored of her own poor
choices. In her heart, a child presses her bare feet to the floor and
runs, half laughing, half shaking, to the light switch, and turns it
on. Amy is getting out of bed. She is walking, half-dressed, to the
foyer. She is opening the door and the house is letting her; her world
is complicit. She begins laughing a grand, frightening laugh, and the
birds scatter the sky with their darkness, the kind only visible in their
muscles, in that rustling sound, the sound of something leaving.