The International Writers Magazine: Lifestories

Walking Home
Natalie Tehrani

ooking around me, I shiver and squirm deeper into my scarf. I hate walking home alone at night. It’s not very far and it is only 9 o’clock, I reassure myself; picking up my pace just a little. I feel the sharpness of the wind and the rustling of leaves that you only ever seem to notice at night. I pass the deserted sports green and wonder, not for the first time, why there aren’t more street-lamps.

I really hate walking home alone at night. It’s not until I get a little further along that I turn a corner and see the group. Four or five boys, or girls; I can’t be sure because I can’t see their faces,all standing huddled together. Then they turn to look at me, moving as one. For some reason I begin to feel very uneasy. Perhaps it’s the cold or the dark that’s engulfing me, but somehow I know it’s them who are causing my anxiety. My heart beat quickens.

It’s too late to cross the road and besides there only children I tell myself. As I approach them I instinctively put my head down and stare at the ground. I can feel their eyes upon me and hear their whispered voices. I know there right in front of me and I think they aren’t going to move to let me pass, but just at the last moment they do. Its not until I’ve hurried past them that I realise I’ve been holding my breath. I let it out and try to calm myself down. There only kids I tell myself again.

Out of the silence something shatters, close to my feet. I jump with the shock and suddenly realise that broken glass lies all around me. Like an ocean of splintered glass it gleams as one of the few street-lamps reflects its clear, sharp surface. I turn in horror to look behind me and see the "kids" bent over in ape-like laughter. These so-called children (they can’t have been more than 15) had just hurled a bottle at me. Luckily it had missed. But only just.

Anger boils up inside me and for a split second I consider stalking over to them and giving them a piece of my mind. Then sense is restored to my brain and I realise that approaching a group who have just tried to hit me with a bottle probably isn’t one of my wisest ideas. I feel scared and helpless and I know there’s nothing I can do. If I call the police they’ll be gone by the time they actually get here. And besides what would the police actually do. Not a lot, I say aloud and sighing I resign myself to walking on unavenged.

As I emerge onto the main road and see my halls a sense of relief hits me. Instead of feeling pleased at this wave of reassurance I feel indignant. I should be able to walk down a street where I live and feel safe. Perhaps I’m pushing my luck because it’s getting late and it is dark. But there was a time when children could play in the streets and people could leave their doors unlocked at night. Now the children playing on the streets are the ones most likely to attack you. These kids have no fear; they know they can get away with what they are doing. At worst they’ll get an ASBO which we all know is now the latest fashion accessory to any self-made rebel.

Society has lost it’s faith in people. I don’t trust the police to necessarily protect me; just like I now avert my eyes from any youth I encounter on the street when I’m out, because I don’t trust them.
But maybe these children have people in their life that they don’t trust and that is the root behind their behaviour. I don’t know, but what I do know is that that something needs to be done to inject some faith back into our culture. Otherwise we will soon be living in a world of suspicion; where no one will ever engage with anyone else for fear of their safety. Some might argue that we are already there.

By the time I reached my flat I had resolved that next time a similar incident occurred (In this age I have no doubt that it will) I would call the police. Perhaps if we put aside the voices that tell us nothing will be done to stop this anti-social behaviour. Perhaps if we all make a stand every time someone attacks us, because essentially this is what those kids did. Perhaps then something will have to change.

© Natalie Tehrani December 2006

Natalie is a Creative Writing student at the University of Portsmouth

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