I am sitting on a crowded train in Berlin
I am sitting on a crowded train in Berlin yesterday when I notice that the guy opposite from me slides down in his seat until our knees touch. I am annoyed and sit up straighter. When I look up from my book (on trauma, funny enough) I see that he’s staring at me. I switch to resting bitch face (a speciality of mine since having lived in Egypt) and stare back. My heart is racing. He holds the gaze for a few long seconds, then looks out of the window. I get up and sit back down in a another seat. I stare at him across the aisle. He notices and casually looks out of the window. The people around me feel something is off but nobody asks or intervenes. I am not inviting them to, but then again I can’t take care of everything. Cause what races through my mind is:
How dangerous is the guy? Is the guy just a dumb asshole or a crazy psychopath? (too close together to tell) Will he get off the train at the same station and follow me? Do I have to be afraid of a physical attack? I want to set an example and scream at him so everyone knows he harassed me and I want to minimize the chance of him doing this to the next woman who sits down across from him (or who has the bad luck of running into him in a darker corner of the city). He looks as if he has a lot of aggression bottled up inside of him so I categorize any interaction as too dangerous to me (women are experts at assessing the potential for aggression in assholes. Well most of us are). Would the people around me help if needed? Why isn’t anyone saying anything? Is the station I am getting off at crowded enough for people to intervene in case he gets off at the same station and attacks me? Is my phone charged? Do I have something to defend myself with?
The train arrives at my station and I get up at the very last second and sneak through the already closing doors. The guy watches me as I get off. I feel humiliated. I am also boiling with rage. A horrible combination, really. However, I’s about to meet my friend’s colleagues and I can’t drag the mood down by telling everyone of my harassment story (or can I?) – nothing happened, after all, right?
But if nothing happened then my palms wouldn’t be sweaty, my heart wouldn’t be racing and I wouldn’t be reminded of all the other sexual harassment incidents that ever happened to me (although I consider myself privileged in having had the luck to have been able to manoeuvre through life very barely touched by sexual assault and domestic violence, unlike the vast majority of girls and women in this world)
On top of this I find myself thinking: Well, at least Berlin gave me a harassment free 6 months before this happened (apart from whistles and comments here and there, but I am too scarred by Egypt’s harassment to take those into account).
I end up telling my friends about the incident – my bad mood is difficult to hide – and we all end up feeling angry and helpless. This morning I wake up too early having had bad dreams. All of this because of 5 seconds spent too close to a helpless idiot. Shit like this is happening hundreds of times in Berlin alone each day.