The women don't look at me anymore,
Don't meet my eyes,
Offer a smile, acknowledgement, glance of understanding,
Hello, you are like me. Hello.
This has stopped.
Maybe it's because of how I walk, or dress.
Maybe it's because of where I live.
Maybe it's the bitch resting on my face, the cultivated guard against unwanted attention. But that doesn't usually stop the women, because they know. They know it's not meant to stop a friendly smile, a nod of encouragement, commiseration, kindness.
That's not all they know.
They're too far away to see my hand without a ring.
They don't know my story.
But they smell something.
They can tell.
Every woman carries some blend of tired and lonely.
(Men, too, but they bake theirs into anger.)
Marriage kept me too exhausted to feel the loneliness.
The scale has tipped.
The ratio has shifted.
The loneliness outweighs the tiredness, now,
And that's what makes me a problem.
Tired women deserve kindness.
Lonely women are a threat.
Tired women will do what's necessary.
They will handle things.
They are dependable.
They want to take a nap.
Lonely women will do anything.
You don't know.
You can't predict the lines they will cross.
I realize this because I have been the woman not looking,
I have been the one who sensed it, who smelled it across the room,
Across the world,
Across the internet.
Smelled it and sensed it and felt it and knew:
Here is a threat.
She's a problem.
Men don't understand, I think, that bitch face has many modes.
Resting is only one of them.
My face has done some good work.
Not enough, though,
Because here I am,
Walking down the street,
I wish I'd realized sooner it was me, is me:
I am the problem,
I am the threat.
It was never the lonely women.
It was never the man sleeping beside me.
It was me, it was me, it was me.
Me, exhausted and ragged,
Too tired to ask myself why loneliness lay between us,
Too tired from knitting torn pieces together to wonder why I kept fixing something
That kept asking to be broken.