“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
As I take three or four large gulps from the water jug on the rickety bench I feel that familiar sense of adrenaline, fear, and anger rise up inside of me. When I lower the pitcher I see them, watching me intently as they always do. Indian men.
Though their names may change, to me they are all the same. I feel naked. Their piercing greedy eyes undress me, leaving me vulnerable yet prepared to fight as I toy with the rock in my clenched fist. I have three more in my pocket and pepper spray tucked into my bra. I’m prepared, I have been through this before. In fact, I go through this everyday now. I’m cycling through hell.
For a split second I want one of them to make a move so I can fight back. I have two weeks of intense anger boiling deep inside of me.
There are more now, a dozen or so, crowded into and around the small local shop I have stopped to eat at. No one has made a sound, they never do. The eerie silence grates on my nerves a hundred times louder than the incessant honking on the highway out front. They could easily overpower me.
I shovel fistfuls of rice into my mouth, desperate to be back on the open road. Not that it’s much better out there, they always find me. Twenty kilometers back I stopped behind a tree to eat a few bananas I had stashed away. I was desperate for a break, it was only nine a.m. but mentally I was ready to snap. My breaking point gets earlier with each passing day, a nights sleep can no longer ease the nightmare I am living through. 288 kilometers to go.
Five minutes in he approached me. He got close enough for me to see what he was holding, a picture of a naked white girl, before I screamed at him to go and held up a rock. He got the point and turned to leave. I threw the rock anyways.
I threw another one as he turned around for one last look. And then again as he began to run. I wasn’t throwing them at him, per say, but rather at his ignorance. At his twisted upbringing which has taught him that women are objects. That we are disposable. That we are second class. No, not second class, scum. I am throwing these rocks in anger at the inequality that is all too prevalent in this part of the world.
I’m cycling again, I’m far from full but I’m not about to hang around for any longer. They are everywhere. The passenger on the motorcycle in front of me turns around to stare. His drivers turns around too, then swerves sharply, barely avoiding a crash. I almost chuckle to myself. I need to get out of here, this place is turning me into a heartless creature.
I pedal faster but it is no use. A motorcycle carrying three adolescents has pulled up in front of me, half blocking my way in an attempt to pull me over. They stare as I pedal quickly by them, my head down. I hear their engine roar as they come up behind me, overtaking me in order to block my way again. This time I hold up one of my rocks. The third one smiles slightly, taunting me. My rock hits his motorbike as his leer turns into shock. He isn’t use to a women fighting back.
They speed away quickly into the distance, but my troubles don’t disappear with them. There are more of them, dozens a day, who play this little game with me. 246 kilometers to go.
A hotel. It’s only three p.m. but I’m ready to lock myself away until I force myself through hell again tomorrow. The sleazy rich business man overcharges me but there is nothing I can do. There is no way I would survive a night in my tent here. He tries to talk to me, tries to ask for my name and number. I want to throw a rock at him.
I double lock the door and shove my bags in front. Safe, or at least hopefully. No one would hear me scream if they found a way in.
Thud, thud, thud. I sit up in bed with a start, half-asleep, my heart racing. I reach for the rock I left on the bedside table. Relief floods through me, it’s not my door they are breaking down. I’m still safe, but awake. I want to stay in my dingy cell forever but I’m starving, the samosas I ate last night were not nearly enough. There was no way I was going back out to grab a real dinner though. They would have found me all too quickly, shredding my soul with their cold-blooded stares.
The cars are already honking down below and the noisy shop garage doors are being pulled up around the block. They are already awake, before the crack of dawn like they always are. I slowly drag myself out of bed and begin to pack my bags. Another day in hell has begun. 206 kilometers to go.