{46} Stay Safe.


I am in college, and my friends are walking home, tipsy and giggling, in the dark. “Stay safe,” I say. “Call me when you’re home.” They do, and I fall asleep, satisfied and maybe a little proud that I made sure they were ok.

There is political and civil unrest in the town my friend lives in. There are protesters and cops and tensions are high. He is driving for Lyft and he is Black. “Stay safe,” I say. “Shoot me a text so I know you got back ok.” And I wait anxiously until I hear from him, breathing a sigh of relief while pushing back the nagging feeling — no — the knowledge, that from ten hours away there was fuck-all I could have done if the text never came.

A beautiful and witty and fiercely independent friend of mine posts a picture of flowers in a trashcan and publicly tells her stalker to leave her alone. “Stay safe,” I say. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” And my fingers freeze over the enter key because, yet again, I am hours away and can do nothing.

I hit enter anyway, and I spend the day thinking about this phrase — “Stay safe” — that I have uttered in hundreds, probably thousands of situations, a gentle plea that my friends, my lovers, my family will not become a victim of circumstance, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, of being judged guilty by virtue of an overabundance of melanin, of being judged easy because they were giggly and drunk. “Stay safe.”

The answer is always, “I will.” “I’ll try.”

And my heart, every time, cries out, “Why is this on you?” Why am I asking you to not get hurt, as if you have a choice in the matter if someone decides that you are an easy/worthy/appropriate target? I say it with love, almost a prayer, as though if I say it it will make it so, as if the force of my words and your agreement to them will form a spell of protection around you or change the mind of those who would hurt you…

Stay safe.

It’s a phrase that comes so naturally and is so bloody wrong, placing the responsibility on you, the threatened, the fearful, the vulnerable, and yet it hangs there, begging to be said as you walk out the door into this world that is just increasingly a place without compassion and without sense, where simply going home or going to work or being amazing is just…too…risky.

Stay safe. I love you too much not to say it. Just in case.