We become young women who can get across campus in 16 minutes and that’s talking the longer route with slightly better lighting. You run the fastest time in the 4×400 meter, while we run relays in the dark just to make the last bus home. Avoid those overgrown bushes, short skirts, empty lots, broken streetlights, unattended drinks, questionable friends. The gauntlet of womanhood requires 2 decades of training. You never missed a track practice while we were sprinting to avoid that shadowy stranger up ahead, doubling back the other way when a car slows down, faster still when its driver whistles at us.
While you were emerging as the star quarterback, we were reminded daily to stay in top form. Keep those senses sharp. Don’t drink, especially not after dark. We walk home with determination and with speed, our phone battery at one percent becomes a stopwatch. We know our surroundings at all times. We memorize street names and license plates and how many drinks and how many steps and where the blue light phones are and incase something happens: the exact shade of red in the stitch on the swoosh of his tennis shoes, because if we can’t recall that, then maybe it just didn’t happen.
We know how to make weapons from fingernails and hair brushes and purse straps and house keys, but you are the top triathlete. We are conditioned from a young age to cover up, walk fast, head up. Vigilance. We know our opponent. often well. Smile back so we don’t make him mad, but prepared to fight back if we need to. If we can.
They say you, you are respected on and off the court, but to us real sportsmanship means we all share a cab so that no one ever walks alone on a Friday night. Being a team player looks like group text chats to let our friends know we all made it safe. Teamwork is playing a game in which one in four of us will be assaulted and what will matter is how we kept each other from drowning when all they talked about is your time in the 50 metre swim.