I looked in the mirror and I looked fine. I was going to meet up with some friends in Plaza Italia and we were going to find a bar to watch the soccer game. We were not going clubbing or anything and it was cold outside. I was wearing a sweater, pants, and very little makeup. I hadn’t showered and my hair was rebelling, but I didn’t care. I looked fine. Normal. Decent. Average. Fine. We were meeting at 7pm. It was 6:50. I put on my jacket, grabbed my things, descended in the elevator, took a deep breath, and stepped out the door into the cold winter air.
I had ten minutes to get there which meant that if I walked as fast as possible I would still be late which was perfect I didn’t want to be the first one there waiting by myself I usually refuse to walk anywhere without my iPod even though I know that having my headphones in probably makes me even more of a target for getting mugged I still think it is worth it though because I really really really can’t deal with the whistling groups of men or the individual douchers who are walking alone and whisper “ay que linda” in my ear as I pass because they are too embarrassed to do it from afar when they are not with a group of like-minded perverts I figured I wouldn’t have to wait too long for my friends so I didn’t bring my iPod so I basically ran to Plaza Italia not noticing anything or anyone barely even taking into consideration the signs at the crosswalks I hummed obnoxious Pussy Riot songs in my head and pretended to be a swift invisible powerful person until I got to Telepizza and looked around desperately I was hoping that I wasn’t going to be the first person to get there but I was and I panicked and had no idea what to do the soccer game was a big deal so there were drunk excited men running around everywhere yelling and cheering and I felt like I was in their zone leaving my house was a mistake because the public sphere of Plaza Italia is a man’s world whenever there is an important soccer game or any day for that matter I thought about going into the metro station and waiting for the others there because at least I would be inside and anywhere that was inside seemed safer than standing around outside because outside was not where lonely women belong outside is where drunk men belong instead I decided to go buy an empanada at a nearby store since I hadn’t eaten yet and I needed something to occupy my time and calm me down a little I picked out a napolitana empanada and as they were heating it up I went to pay for it at the cashier who was creepy and old and looked at me in a way that was no different than any of the creepy men on the street who I was trying to avoid but at least he was behind glass and I didn’t feel like he could get to me very easily then I grabbed my empanada and headed back outside I looked around again and my friends still had not arrived so I put my back against a building and waited at least with my back to a wall I could see everything that was happening all around me and I felt a little safer but not much because there were about fifty men around me who all took a chance to hold stares and look me up and down as if they were using their glances to tell me “I am a man, I could hurt you” it was coming at me from every direction “IAMAMANIAMAMANIAMAMANIAMAMAN” I felt like I was shrinking I felt like a tiny blond helpless shrinking girl I felt like a child which made the whole thing even creepier because I glared helplessly back at them as though they were pedophiles checking out a child there were a few other girls waiting in the plaza too but they were all doing something to keep themselves busy most of them were on their phones or at least pretending I thought about pretending to be on the phone too but the last thing that I wanted to do was draw even more attention to myself which I would undoubtedly do if the scary men around me heard my accent as if being a tiny blond girl was not telling enough I did not want to make myself seem even more vulnerable to their horny glances I wanted to eat my empanada but one time someone told me that Chileans don’t eat in public and I thought that eating might draw attention to me too I wanted to smoke I have never smoked in my life nor have I wanted to because the elementary school anti-smoking programs had effectively scared me to death but in that moment I wanted to smoke so badly and keep my hands busy I wanted to smoke like a man I wanted to make a cloud of smoke around me so that nobody could see me one time I tried smoking a cigar and I ended up vomiting I wanted to do that I wanted to vomit so that nobody would find me attractive I wanted to vomit a circle around myself I wanted to vomit into their eyes I wanted to hurt every single one of them for scaring me so badly and for making me so anxious I hadn’t done anything the men were not staring at each other they were staring at me they were staring at the few other girls but at least the other girls had something to do I had nothing to do but wait and watch them stare at me all of them looked like they were heading toward me which terrified me because I did not know what they were going to do to me or what they wanted from me they would walk really close keeping their stare they whole time and then say “princesa” or something disgusting before veering so that they did not run into me or the wall we were in public and there were a lot of people around so probably they were not going to actually physically hurt me but they still had to let me know that I was in their domain so they did it through creepy stares and sleazy whispers I wished that I had stayed home I wished that I had a knife I wished that I was a hairy smelly disgusting man so that nobody would ever look at me and objectify me again for being a woman who dares to go outside.
“Francis!” It was Sofia. Finally. I hugged her tightly and held back tears.
“Maldita gringa puntual!”