My daughter calls. Not for a chat. Well, no. We chat. But it’s not like chatting when ‘Strictly’ is on and we like Aj’s dress or how utterly fabulous team JoJo are. It’s not just hanging out on the phone, catching up. This call has an altogether different purpose.

It always starts the same.

 “Hi Mum.”

 “Hey love.”

 “Urgh, work was mental. Non-stop.”

 “Is town busy?”

 “Crazy.”

It’s 9.15 Thursday night. I hear the chatter of groups of lads, half snatched conversations as girls clatter past. I can hear the height of their heels from here.

 “What way are you walking tonight?”

She names the road.

 “Some girl got hassled in the underpass,” she tells me. “Some guys grabbed at her.”

“The homeless guys?” The guys my daughter sometimes drops a sandwich and a coffee for, on her way into work in the dark.

“No,” she says, the roar of lads in the background momentarily drowning her out. My stomach tightens. “No,” she shouts again. “Just some random bloke. Police were called. Think I’m gonna walk the long way.”

My daughter, working for a coffee chain in a Welsh city centre, calls me every time she walks home late. Not late late, she finishes work at 8 pm, 9 sometimes 10. Sometimes she calls her brother if she worries that I’m tired. She always calls someone, never walks home alone. It’s a 20 min walk. 30 if she has to avoid the underpass. Too short, it seems, for a taxi ride. And if even they do pick her up, on minimum wage she can hardly afford the fare.

So, we talk, and she walks. I hear about her day, about the people who come into her coffee shop, the rudeness. What she’s doing at Uni. Her boiler playing up again.

I can tell the places where she’s more scared to walk. By the museum, there are fewer people, the streets are lined with trees. It’s darker here but she can walk down the middle of the road. I hear her footsteps quicken, her breath a little faster. I do the talking, filling her in on the antics of the dog, how annoying her dad is, what we had for tea.

She tells me the places where there are security guards on patrol. She knows the hotel you can go into any time if you don’t feel safe. The government building with armed police outside that she could run to – or maybe not there. Her routes are planned, the walk home tense.

One night, I can hear town is busy, lads and lasses out on the lash. My daughter is quieter, her conversation more stilted. I hear a voice in the background. Muffled. A man. My daughter’s voice tight. Her answers to me clipped. Her headphones in, only one, like they say, so she can still hear what going on.

More lads laughing, a man’s voice closer this time.

“Alright love. You off out then?”

“FUCK OFF!” My daughter yells at the top of her voice. Then sotto voce, “Sorry Mum.”

My heart’s in my mouth. “You ok?”

“Yeah, some arse, thinking he’s funny, showing off for his mates. He grabbed at my arm. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Get an uber, love,” I say. “I’ll pay for it.”

“I’m too close to home,” she says. “They won’t come out. Tell me what you had for your tea, I’m starving.”

 It must be exhausting. It is for me. I slump back into my chair when I hear the beep of her front door, not aware I’d been on the edge of my seat, following her route in my mind, ready to call for help, if it was needed.

“That’s me, Mum.” She breathes at last. “God, I need a wee. I’ll catch you later?”

“Night love,” I say.

“Night Mum, love you.”

I hang up. Angry. Outraged. Relieved.

How the hell did it get that she, we, all of us, couldn’t walk home from our jobs, or visiting friends, or late-night lectures, or meeting a friend at the pub, or whatever it is that we choose to do?

 How can this not be safe?

How can this be right?

 And what the hell are we all doing about it?

 Me?

 I’m going to walk my daughter home from work again tomorrow.

 And pray that she gets home safe.

2 thoughts on “Walking my daughter home.

  1. Reading this brought back many memories of ‘just going home’. Many a night (not even that late) I’ve walked down the middle of the road, or crossing the road and then crossing back again just to be sure that person behind me isn’t following. Even a taxi ride came with its own worries and I’d ring my house phone and talk into the answer machine as if speaking toa boyfriend/husband….”Hi, it’s me…yes I’m on my way back now….where are you?…oh you’re home already…ok well I’ll see you in a minute…”
    All this rigmarole just so the driver wouldn’t know I was going home to my empty house.
    I’m glad Saturday nights now consist of comfy pj’s and a takeaway. Well, maybe for another 10 years or so until my daughter is older and then I’ll be sat watching my phone….waiting for her to call.

    Like

    1. Thank you for responding xx it’s always really lovely when words connect us, i just really wish we didnt have to connect over our collective fear, for ourselves, for our daughters, our mothers, all women.

      All we want to do is walk home. It seems like a lifetime ago that i marched in reclaim the night marches. Im so angry that we are still here. I hope one day our daughters can walk home in peace. Xxx

      Like

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