Walking alone at night is terrifying to me. It’s scary even when I’m at home and have to walk the five yards to my car in the driveway. So, it’s really scary when I am walking down a dark road to find a taxi in Jordan. The other night I walked alone to find a taxi. The sun sets in Amman around six this time of the year and it was only a little after that time that I set out to meet some friends for dinner. I held my bag tightly as I walked down the car-lined road to the main street. A light above me flickered on eerily. Ahead I noticed a group of four young men laughing and walking towards the street. I found myself thinking “Okay, four of them and one of me. Slow down your pace a little, Grace.” I did not want to have to deal with their stares or cat-calls. It’d already been far too long a day for that.
Unfortunately, as I got nearer to the street, the group stopped. They were waiting for a taxi, just like I needed to be. Standing right next to them was not an option and it’d be extremely rude to go up the street further. If I did, I would steal a taxi from them. After running through the possibilities, I decided crossing the street was my best option. I would be away from the men and there was always the possibility there may be more taxis that way.
Once I reached the street, the group of boys saw me. My stomach clenched and I stared straight ahead as I heard them saying, “Hellooooo!” As quickly as possible I crossed the street, not even giving them a sign that I had heard them. When I was safely on the other side, I started walking up the street a bit and stuck out my arm to hail a taxi. As I did so, I watched the group of boys begin to cross the street. I knew I wasn’t in danger, but I definitely didn’t want to deal with any more men that day. I had already been cat-called for a half hour earlier in the day while trying to find a taxi. I sighed and kept my arm out, praying that a taxi would swoop in and save the day. No such luck.
As the boys came closer, I decided I would make eye contact this time just so they could register my don’t-mess-with-me face. As my eyes flickered towards them, I realized one of the boys was coming specifically towards me with his arm out. Confusion. Then, recognition. It was Samuel, my host “dad”‘s younger brother. Suddenly, what I had done registered. I felt so small and ridiculous. I tried to make up for my inexcusable rudeness by grinning and saying “Oh hi, Sam!! I didn’t see you!” He smiled good-naturedly and headed off with his friends. I could not believe what had just happened. I had completely ignored a friend because I was scared. My fear of the unknown had imprisoned me. I was walking around blindly to keep myself safe, but in reality, being blind just makes you miss out on seeing. How many other times in my life have I chosen not to see?
I have found that sometimes it is easier not to look. Sometimes it’s easier to just pretend like nothing is happening. To pretend that it doesn’t involve you if you can’t see it. It’s like when you play hide and seek with little kids. They think just because they are covering their eyes, you can’t see them. But you do. The problems and people around us still see us clearly, whether or not we’re looking. I have seen and am continuing to see such problems in the world, even here in Jordan. There are stigmas and racism that lay heavy on my heart. It has shown me that the time for turning a blind eye is over. It’s time to face these issues, even if there is little I can do about it. I cannot allow my fear prevent me from fully living my life.