What's lurking in the shadows?: Natasha Joseph

2013-04-23 10:00

SA’s women live an odd paradox. We have some of the most progressive laws for advancement in the world, but often there is fear laced into the fabric of living. Public and private spaces can be constructed on fragile foundations where too often property, hate and sexual crimes are risky cocktails, constructing fragile foundations for life. Four City Press staff members share how they negotiate fear and the joy of living

Here’s what you think about when you’re running at full throttle, legs stretching and heart pounding, across a silent university campus in the early hours of the morning.

You think: “Maybe if I stop and try to talk to them, they’ll back off.”

You think: “I’m going to have an asthma attack.”

You think: “I’m so glad I always wear comfortable shoes instead of high heels.”

And then you just run.

It started outside the Rat & Parrot, one of Grahamstown’s most popular pubs. My friend Cindy was drunk and another friend was giving her a lift home.

I walked out with them, laughed when Cindy tried to give me a hug and ended up nearly falling into a gutter.

We were 18, and drunk, and we were silly and we were friends. I kissed her goodbye – the kind of kiss you plant on a friend’s forehead. She got into the car. I went back into the Rat and drank some more.

Then it was about 2am and it was time to go home. I walked out of the Rat, crossed Somerset Road and was on Rhodes University’s campus.

My residence was a five-minute walk if I picked up the pace; maybe 10 minutes if I dawdled and stopped to look at the stars or the trees.

There were footsteps behind me. I thought nothing of it. Even at 2am, there are people coming and going on a campus – other students, like me, who have finished their parties, or the more studious, who’ve been clocking long hours in study rooms and labs.

“Hey you!” a male voice called. I didn’t turn. Men aren’t often shouting at me.

“Hey, you f***ing dyke. Come here. We’ve got something to show you.”

I didn’t turn. You don’t, when you hear that tone of voice. You just run, and I did.

Their footsteps pounded behind me. I jumped – actually launched myself – over obstacles, took flights of stairs five at a time.

They didn’t shout again. We all just ran.

Then I was outside my res, lungs burning, heart threatening to smash out of my chest.

I lunged for the door, my access chip trembling wildly. I guess my hands were too.

I was inside.

I turned. No one in sight. I was sober. I was safe. Who knows what they would have showed me? Me, I’m just grateful I wear comfortable shoes.

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