Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
He closed the gate behind him and cast one final glance at his girlfriend, staring at him from behind another series of bars that served as the second line of defense. It felt to him as if he was literally in a prison, only able to look at her, and nothing else. No touch. The public did not allow it, which weighed heavily here. It weighed heavily on them. As always when he said goodbye for the night, he could see it in her eyes. The anxiety to fly into his arms, the lust to rip the clothes from his body. But it could not be.
He stood for a while, letting the cool evening breeze lower the temper that always built up inside of him around this time of day. He stood until she closed the door, mustering up one of her magical smiles that somehow kept him going, then departed for his home.
The walk was not far. The night was beautiful. The street, with its lush green variety of grass and trees, looked as peaceful as ever. He always had trouble believing the stories about this city. People got pulled from streets like this and were robbed blind, if not worse. It had never happened to him, but at the thought his hand closed around the little bottle of pepper spray in his pocket. He felt girlish about having one. In his opinion carrying a baseball bat around would be much more effective. Much more masculine. His opinion was not one of the wise kinds, however. Assailants could come from everywhere at once, and in such a case a quick spray of pepper would create enough diversion for him to run. A baseball bat, however, would most likely be used to crack his own skull eventually. Not wise.
He turned the corner onto the main road. This meant relative safety. Apart from a few passing cars, the place was deserted. All shops had closed for the night and would not reopen until daylight fell through their windows again. He followed another advice by staying as far away from the bushes as possible, almost walking on the street itself. Anyone who jumped him would be spotted soon enough and could be dealt with. As always, there was no one in there. He approached the intersection and that was when he spotted the red pick-up. Its driver ran the car’s brightest lights, which completely obscured him from vision. Extremely loud hip hop music blurted out of the speakers, the words incomprehensible but full of aggression. The constant honk that seemed to be necessary only added to this. Whoever this man was, the lonely pedestrian did not feel a sudden urge to walk up to his car and scold him for making too much noise. Instead, he averted his eyes and kept on walking. No eye contact would mean no trouble. He arrived at the traffic light, pressed the button and waited patiently, not paying any attention to anything but the little red man on the other side of the road, who would soon turn a happy walking green. The engine of the car roared, he had been spotted. The little man turned green, the pedestrian’s legs started into motion, tires screeched. With an incomprehensible speed the pick-up raged towards him, ready to smash him within an inch of his life. He yelled, blinded by the lights, faintly heard the maniacal laughter coming from inside the car, jumped, ducked and waited for impact. It didn’t come. After a while he dared to open his eyes and looked up to see the car speeding off into the distance. His heart thumped. His breathing came in heavy surges. He looked at the pepper spray still clutched firmly in his palm. Much good it did him today. He cast it aside and went towards the final corner.
The shock had blinded his sense of danger, and by the time he closed the gate behind him he realized how lucky he had been to safely traverse the final distance. How lucky he had been to survive this night at all. He felt tired, but there was one more thing he had to do. He took his phone, dialed her number. Tears filled up his eyes at the sound of her voice. He trembled. He would live to wake up next to her another day. He fought to get the words out of his mouth.