I am sitting in a microbus and the man next to me is getting a little too comfortable. I take a breath, and shrink myself in my seat, it's okay, we do this every day. Just 45 more minutes and we'll be home. He keeps touching my arm and I keep shrinking further. Another breath. I politely ask him if he can move a little bit to the right, he looks at me with appalled eyes, like I just accused him of something. Did I? I bite my tongue. I do not tell him. After all, you do not tell a random stranger these things, right? So I do not tell him. I do not tell him about the man who touched my thigh when I was a kid of no more than 13, then smirked at me, daring me to say something. I do not tell him about the man who threatened to slap me because I stood up for myself, or the man who spit at me for no reason at all. I do not tell him about the man who yelled "يا خول!" at me in the midst of a crowded street, I do not tell him how I felt then. I do not tell him about the boy who threw a stone at me and snickered with his friends. I do not tell him about how I dodge men in the street like my life depends on it, I do not tell him about how I'd rather walk through a thousand blazing suns than walk by a group of men. I do not tell him anything, after all, you do not tell a random stranger these things, right? Another Breath. He touches my thigh. Stomach drop. I pray. Even though God hasn't been exactly present. I wonder if the rules of physics would allow me to become one with the window next to me. I ask him again. He looks at me dumb and I envy him. I envy him because he is completely unaware of anything that does not revolve around his existence. I shrink and he stretches, like it was an invitation for him to take what presence I had and make it his own. He touches my arm, again. Fists clenched and jaw tightened. I can already feel my neck aching under the strain. How do you tell someone he's taking all the air you're supposed to be breathing for himself?
I am tired, of shrinking my whole being for men. I am tired of folding myself into bits, and bits, and bits so I can fit in whatever tiny space they allow me. I am tired of shrinking my anger so I wouldn't be taken for a (God forbid!) man-hater. I am tired of shrinking my niceness so it wouldn't be taken for an invitation to something I never asked for. I am tired of feeling like I do not deserve to occupy a place in this world.