This black van. I began noticing this black van over the last week. Yesterday, I didn’t see it. Perhaps it is a moving van? A delivery van? Like that one time a pitch black car followed me around back home. I called the police and I told them about this black car following me.
“Do you have the license plate?” After I gave the police the license plate number, the police called back about ten minutes later. “That is a gentleman who owns a delivery company. He is just making deliveries.” Strangely, the deliveries always happened to be around me, near me. My home. My work. And, surprisingly, the black car also disappeared.
“Do you have people following you?” Confused by her question. “I don’t know.”
That is the question my doctor asked me when I asked for a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.
“Do you have any thoughts of suicide?” Perplexed. “Before, but not right now.” At this time, I am agitated. “I have anxiety and I know the harms associated with the medication I am asking for but I am only asking for a bit.” A bit. Just enough. To survive. “But I don’t want to…” I cut her off. “I know what I need. I know the medication. I don’t have time for a full time psych evaluation because that’s not why I am here.” Despite my assertion that I know what I need in that moment, health care professionals (any kind of professional for that matter) don’t like being told that you know yourself better than they do. They are the professionals. You are not. Silly little girl.
It was a cold evening in London, Ontario. I decided to go for a walk. Not a run. I didn’t have the strength. I needed to clear my head. The truck appeared out of nowhere. It drove passed me. Once. Twice. I started to walk slower. The truck went ahead, pulled into a parking lot. I passed the parking lot. Despite the fact that I could have crossed the parking lot to access the grocery store, I walked around the entire lot on the sidewalks. The truck stayed in the lot. When I went inside the grocery store, I expected the truck to be gone once I left the store. The truck was still in the lot. I proceeded to walk toward the direction of my apartment. I knew that there would be more parking lots but this time more people, more lights. The truck pulled out of the lot. I walked faster toward the bright parking lot. The truck drove slower. Near me. My earphones in my ears but my music off. I walked to the sub shop. “Can I just sit here for a bit?” Nobody cared. I sat in silence. Scared. My arms were numb. My legs started to shake. I certainly felt like I should be running now. Nothing.
And, this was not not the first time this happened. This. Being followed. Being scared. Feeling alone.
“Text me when you get home safely.” These are the words I always say to my friends when we separate ways to walk home. We sat together celebrating the end of a term. “People don’t know the reality for Indigenous women.” We are law students. “We could go missing at any time.” We survived.
There are certain streets I don’t walk on after dark. There are more lights and vehicles on the other ones. The other streets. I always text someone, my mom, before I leave my apartment when I go out. “Text me when you get home.” She still cares about me, despite being five hundred kilometres away. “If you don’t hear from me by 1:00 pm, call me.” But what would happen if I don’t answer my phone? “Be concerned if you don’t see anything on Facebook by the end of the day.” Funny how social media works. Funny how safety looks. Texts. Calls. Earphones without any music. Phone in my hand. Battery fully charged. Charger. My body feeling like it is fully charged. Tense.
Yesterday, I planned for things to go smoothly. But things do not always go as planned. I read her story many times before. Pamela George is her name. I critiqued the scholarly work that examined her death once before. It needed to be done. People always argue that Indigenous women are human beings too. Thanks. They say what happened to Pamela George was senseless. Mindless. The words are practically one in the same. The murder was neither mindless nor senseless. They went looking for someone like her. An Indigenous woman working on the streets. An Indigenous woman working in the sex trade. Then, I received the notification on my phone. One of their names appeared on my phone. My arms went numb. My legs felt I wanted to run. Still, I was stuck. I couldn’t move.
People assume that because I am out that I am out for whomever, whenever, wherever. Where is Shakira when you need her?
I am not available for whomever, whenever, wherever. Just because I am publicly available, my tweets, my writings…this does not mean I permit this unfettered access. To me. My energy. My spirit.
After I testified at the c-36 JUST meetings, the only Indigenous woman with sex working experience who opposed the bill, the messages came. I wish I was anonymous. “Does Naomi want a law for heroine addicts?” Someone wrote. “Crocodile tears.” Another.
I am strong. But I am weak. I still struggle with how to reconcile the violence that Indigenous women in the sex trade experience—the violence that kills—with the violence that feminism likes to unite us all under the pretty pink “sisterhood” umbrella of alleged shared experiences.
We do not have shared experiences.
The violence that Indigenous women experience is targeted. It is everywhere we go. On our way home. To school. To work. To the grocery store. To the pharmacy. Sometimes I just want to live…without the fear of going missing or being found murdered.