“It was just like any other day,” she said “I was walking home and was just a block away from my apartment. You know how crowded the roads get.”
“Uh huh” I nodded, distracted by my phone.
Scrolling through a website, I had chanced upon the word, ‘embittered’: to become bitter or resentful by unfair events. I was too busy looking up the meeting of the word to look at her.
We were two friends swapping stories over lunch.
“All of a sudden, this guy comes out of nowhere and he gropes me” she continued, unfazed by my inattentiveness, “right in front of my apartment. Can you believe it?”
Startled, I look up, “What?”
“Yeah” she shrugs, “right in front of my apartment,” like that was the most critical detail. “Anyway, I caught him. I was not going to let him simply walk away. Not after what he had done.” Her eyes had narrowed in anger and defiance.
I looked at my friend. She had always been a fighter. The one that stood up to catcalls and the teasing. The fierce one in our group. The one who never backed down in the face of opposition.
“I held onto him but he struggled to break free. He scratched me. He hit me — right in my face,”she gestured to her nose, “he tried to claw his way out of my grip. But luckily for me, it was right outside my house, so my neighbours rushed to my aid and helped me drag him to the police station, where we filed a case against him.”
Our food grew cold before us as we talked well into the afternoon. We discussed harassment that women face. We talked about gender inequality and women’s rights. She told me about how people were surprised that she filed a case against her accuser and how many of her female friends advised against it. It was not worth the drama that accompanied it, they had said.
“Well!” I exclaimed, “I am glad you did it. I am proud of you for filing that case.”
She shook her head and smiled sadly, “No, they were right after all.” A weary, far-off look had crept into her eyes. It spoke of bitter defeat and resentment.
“His family found out where we lived. You know how no one is at home all day except my grandma? The rest of us are at work.”
“Every day was a constant stream of harassment and verbal abuse directed at my grandma. They said it would stop only if we withdrew the case.”
There was a long pause. It was filled with pain.
“The abuse was causing my grandma to lose her mind. It was terrible watching her suffer. I had to withdraw the case. You can resist only for so long. One day you will crack under the pressure.”
Her story broke me. When a young woman decided to fight back and they couldn’t subdue her, they attacked a feeble, old woman who was powerless against their assault. It spoke of a bitter struggle where justice had been fought for, but not delivered. It spoke of a community that had rallied to support the abuser and pressured the victim to give into injustice.
“I am not the same person anymore.” She said, haltingly, trying to find the right words to express herself. “I don’t know if I quite believe in justice anymore. I used to be brave. Now? I don’t know — I am just this person who is … what’s the word for it?”
“Embittered.” I said, “I think that’s the word you’re looking for.”
Natasha Claire Fernandes |