The night is bitterly cold.
A front is blowing in from the west, bringing sleet and possible snow across the ranges and towards our mountain home.
I am always grateful for our shelter, but on nights like these, I am especially appreciative.
I would like to say we are not only warm, but we are safe.
But I can’t.
I can’t because I am a woman.
And though, yes, technically my family and I are protected from tonight’s harsh weather, my forty seven years around the sun have sadly embedded a subtle, yet ever-present, fear of potential harm onto my psyche.
Just like my grandmothers skilful hands, were ever knitting, crochet or crafting garments for my outer body, there is a sense that fear has been intricately embroidered, stitch by tiny stitch, upon my vulnerable insides.
I feel sad, that growing up female has meant I have needed to have an awareness and toolbox of tactics to help me survive the potential and terrible turning of any good man into beast.
It is the end of a long work week and I am tired, but I am here typing – one thumb out of the bedcovers on my phone – because sleep cannot come to cover the sick feeling in my stomach. Fatigue cannot erase the growing inner growl of the mother and daughter and woman that I am – the women that we are.
We who have not spoken.
We who have not been heard.
We do not feel safe.
For fear of judgement and a retribution that has already befallen those we mourn, we have never dropped our jaws, dropped to our knees and howled out our desperate fear, angst and loss into the night.
We have stayed quiet.
I have stayed quiet.
For so long.
Quiet, because I learned as a child, that noise was unwelcome, it lead to unwanted attention, and could bring about pain.
Quiet because, I’ve doubted my own inner dialogue, because I have followed the flock and have betrayed my own basic rights, because I have shrunk in my own silent shame.
There is nothing quiet in me tonight.
As another body chills in a freezer.
As women mourn and tremble and silently rage.
Another sister, daughter, mother, friend.
Another woman not just gone, but grabbed and groped and gored.
By someone we all fear, that we have all learned to fear – the man in the park, the van driver, the one offering a lift or sweets. The stranger… the predator.
We are raised with fear, but we are silent.
Because fear is the unpopular friend we don’t speak about, the secret habit we can’t admit to, the shadow we just can’t shake.
It has been with us as long as we’ve listened.
Listened to the women in our lives. Listened to the warnings from other men. Listened to the stories, the fables and media. Listened to the soft, wise whisperings of our own heart.
I don’t like to be afraid.
But to admit it now, feels as scary as it is sane. Listen. So many other women are admitting it too.
I am not walking without my mobile. There’s no short skirt on me. As an adult I have plenty of situational awareness. As a female it is second nature.
But my gender makes me a target.
And my experiences – many, broad and deep – leave me sadly distrustful and trembling.
Because I know, that by speaking out, my noise is unwelcome, it leads to unwanted attention, it can bring about pain.
It might sound strange, but I feel them.
Our ancestors, the women of this world – here and gone.
They are also not sleeping.
They too are awake.
These women are roaming, roaring, ranging on the outskirts of our awareness, pacing the perimeters of a patriarchy that prevents safety for its people.
They are still here.
Thirty one taken from our land in just six months this year. All but one of these women, murdered not by that random stranger, but by someone they knew, once trusted and loved.
And there have been countless others – nameless (they all had names), faceless (they all had faces) – females murdered all around the globe.
They live on.
Speaking softly to each other.
Singing over the bones of our collective suffering.
And surging up.
I feel them.
I feel you.
They are singing us home.
Willing us to return to our sovereign state of sanctity, to our sacred sexuality, to a sense of safety in simply being alive.
Has a name.
A family, community or tribe.
She. Had a history.
A set of hopes.
Plans beyond the limits of her gender, beyond the gratification of a gross attack that stole her life, or for those who survive, her peace of mind, her future relationships and her ability to trust.
She is gone.
In a world where what we count only matters to some….sometimes.
She is you and me.
Male and female
Sacred and wounded
She is gone.
Like so many others.
But she is not just another.
She is someone.
(c) Chandu Bickford 2018