HOLLA ON THE GO: “I was in the window seat…”

I was in the window seat on a bus. I had taken a night bus, now it was morning and I was drifting off between awake and sleep. A stranger sat next to me, the seats were tiny and the seat back in front of me down, so our shoulders and knees touched. When I woke up from a nap I noticed him shifting around in his seat, and realized he was masturbating in the seat. I was in Ecuador, where I live for part of the year. Here is a poem I have written about the experience:

I thought:
I am strong
I am independent
I do not let anyone mess with me.

I thought
On that very day
That I was untouchable
(Although a little tired)
And I could have taken on anything
You sat by my side.

Our shoulders touched and the seats were too small
Squishing into my knees
And you spread your legs the way men do
I was too tired to even feel annoyed by the way your knee rested against mine.

Suddenly I’m trapped
Pressed up against the cold window
And you have made my body about your pleasure but I cannot move
And the words are floating through my head but they are all out of order.
Instead of yelling
I freeze.

How can one stranger take so much power from me? I go from invincible
To speechless
Just with the sight of your hand.

Have you already forgotten how good it felt?
Because I will not forget that disgust
I smell it every time I get on the bus
I’ll give up my seat and stand the whole way now
I hear your shifting movements anytime someone new sits down
I count the other women on the bus
My stomach is in a knot.

I felt strong
I felt independent
And then you showed up.
I live in a world where
I do not get the option of letting my guard down.

But it will not happen again.
This time I will be ready
I have prepared my responses
And I will tell the world
You will not get any power you do not deserve.

I am strong.
I am independent.
And you will not change that.