To the man in the coffee shop parking lot:
We did not meet yesterday, but I remember you. I wish I could have talked to you, and explained what our interaction meant to me. I wish you could know what you are doing. Perhaps you already know. I would like to believe you simply do not understand your impact—that if you understood, things would have been different.
You were walking to your car, having come through the coffee shop’s door — you were in front of me. You were dressed in coveralls, and I assumed you must be on a break from your workday. I was as well, and was heading back to my office. You turned your head and saw me. You stopped, and your eyes moved up and down my body. You grinned, and I looked away. When I looked back, you were saying something, though I don’t know exactly what; I was listening to music through my headphones. You didn’t continue to your car. Instead, still smirking, you doubled back so you could walk behind me before continuing on.
I wish I could have told you what this did to me.
I wish I could tell you that, because you moved behind me, I took the long way back to work to avoid being in a less populated area with you.
I wish I could tell you that you made me feel less human. I was in your space, a man’s space, and as punishment, you treated me like I was no more than just my body parts.
I wish I could tell you about the man in a car who once followed me five blocks until I retreated into a shop. Or the man who grabbed my arm while I was trying to leave the subway. Or the man who grabbed my neck while he was drunk. I wish I could tell you that you reminded me of all of them. I wish I could tell you that I know not what you are capable of doing to me.
I wish I could tell you that I do not dress the way I dress, or look the way I look, for your benefit. I did not leave my home and enter the world yesterday so you could have something to stare at and comment on.
Frankly, I wish I could tell you to fuck off.
But I cannot tell you any of this.
I cannot communicate with you because you frighten me. You have shown me, without a doubt, that you are the subject, and I am a mere object. You went out of your way to get behind me so I could not see what you might do to me before it happened. You took time out of your day to make me feel smaller than you.
I wonder if you think that doing this is harmless. I wonder what would be different if you knew how it made me feel. I wonder if you know that your female friends, your sisters, your mother, experience this as well.
My fear is that, even if you knew all of this, nothing would be different.