not us, no.

Battle Studies For The Road

Yeah, Bummer: #Patriarchy can mess with your travel plans too.

I’m standing in the doorway of our hotel room and I’m half-wishing we’d landed before the sun went down as Maya runs the eight to ten feet to our car to grab the extra gallon of water we packed.

She has the car keys in one hand in that all-too-familiar position, the one you just know if you’re a woman.

I’m keeping one eye on her, but I’m still wondering if our travel thermos is heavy enough to work as a weapon or what else might be within reach. I don’t like that I jump as a couple walks by and peeks into our room, as another guest steps out for a cigarette six rooms down or as our (clearly intoxicated) neighbor stumbles up to his door and fumbles with his key. His room is connected to ours by a little door and we’ve both already taken the precaution of checking the locks and stacking our suitcases in front of it.

We’re waiting on our dinner to show up[1] but we’re both not-so-secretly hoping that the delivery person arrives during this sprint so we can double lock the door and be done with it.

It sounds crazy and paranoid and a bunch of other unflattering adjectives when I unpack the whole 15 minute affair like this. But going through these motions isn’t anything new: It’s standard procedure to watch your back, to watch other women’s back and, in the worst case scenario, to be ready to fight. It’s battle training every time you walk alone, pretending to be on the phone while your fingers play with the sharpest part of your keychain, every time you check your backseat before driving away, every time you get your open-door-close-door-lock-door-fast routine down to a science while maintaining a checklist of the different items you could MacGyver into a weapon.

It’s something I don’t really want to reflect on that much as a ~modern, independent woman~ in 2016. I want to pretend the smiles offered over rest stop coffee kiosks and gas pumps were 100 percent out of politeness and not just a little bit out of self-preservation. I want to pretend that the corner in front of the adjoining door is just the most convenient place for our suitcases. I want to pretend that the hunting knife we’ve been keeping in the cardboard box next to our coffee maker is just for cooking.

I’d love it if we could lay our weapons down, step out on to any given curb in any given city and fade into the scenery. I’d like more than anything for no woman to fall asleep with the teeth of her keys marking her palms.

We used to sit in our favorite diners back home and talk about the places we wanted to explore, the plans we wanted to make — but there was always a nasty, nagging reminder that it’d be easier, safer, more do-able if we weren’t just two young women.

I got off the phone with my grandma a few hours ago at a truck stop outside Waco, TX, and that conversation ended just like every one I’ve had with my sisters and my friends since we left and just like the hug from my mom that lasted a few seconds too long.

“Please, please, be safe.”

[1] I chronicled the burrito saga at length on Twitter with faaaar more humor than you’ll see here.

Miles: 1,801.7
Cups of Coffee: 13