After a man bends down in front you pretending to drop something in order to violate you on his way up

we giggle like
young girls at the mall being
followed by boys
who don’t know
how to take
refusal with grace

young girls on a walk home
from school and a car
following behind
a little too close

young girls who breathe
relief at every story that
their mother says
could have easily been

young girls who
go to the bathroom in
groups for a reason

young girls who fake
phonecalls at the bus stop
with exceptional talent

we chuckle like
they who are
making a defense mechanism
out of discomfort for the first time.

it’s always in retrospect-
the fighting back
It’s always fist and rage and all the opposite
of what a lady is supposed to be
the politeness drained from flesh into blue fingertips ready
to carve the man out from his body

all nails and weighted hands-
this is what it is when looking back
but in the actual
moment the girl
in me tells the woman
I am to laugh it off
to toss back in humor and walk blindly forward
hold this head up high
with the years of threads
I’ve pinned to its base to
keep it from tilting
to trade anger for ignorance
to replace reaction with a lack of
to swallow pride because that method
has always been
safer than resistance

It’s the minutes after
when I imagine what I didn’t do
a stranger, crouches consciously
to invade space he knows damn well isn’t his
and the image of his smiling satisfaction
as he continues on
try and make an excuse to myself like
maybe it’s a mistake but any mistake
wouldn’t be given away
by the corners of his lips stretching outward

I picture
my knee charging into his teeth,
the impact of muscle against face
wonder if he’d still be grinning with the blood staining his mouth
think about my tongue doing more than sitting still
say my body’s not the only weapon I have to show
scream so loud that the whole bar turns a head to pay attention
remember the pepper spray hanging from my purse
remember that it’s existence is only ever remembered after the fact

and my laugh,
never enough voice
to knock the guts it took to touch me
back into his stomach
my brave,
never enough courage to
take the fear out of risk

I am
a response without a throat
and my silence,
the regret that wins
most often

we giggle because
it’s what we know best
like we’re well aware of the fact
that we didn’t have all these years of
for nothing

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