I dress in layers of stealth and sweaters on summer nights
expecting to encounter a stammering drunk
who lost his ability to feign respect three drinks ago.

Every time I hear a voice from one corner of the city
or another
my bones shudder and my lips cringe
and I hold my temper like a child’s hand
because I don’t want to lose it.

I like to be alone on late walks home
each step narrated by the dull roar of the city at night
but I am interrupted
and forced to interact
as an implied subservient
and the civilized thing to do is ignore it.

But he is uncivilized.
And realizing this makes me want to stoop to his level,
forcing him to feel uncomfortable
to show him that women won’t be victim anymore.

I could use the same vocabulary
I could spit vulgarities back into his face
that would be stone cold and white,
shocked at obscenities spilling out of the objectified lips of the objectified body.
He would be astounded to know that we aren’t actually objects
that we do, in fact, absorb every word thrown at us,
that we hear him and we don’t want to hear him anymore.

I’d like to tell him to bite his tongue
and if he tries to speak again
I’d like to confuse him
and counter his conventions of thinking.

Or, for a less cerebral approach
I want to stomp on his shoes over and over
until his toes fall off his feet
as easily as his words fall off his tongue.

My mother taught me to let people taste their own medicine
but my brother showed me I have weak biceps;
I raise my middle finger like it’s my national flag
and I start lifting weights.