“Please, be careful.”

There were girls found in dumpsters, behind truck stop diners, off the side of the road on truck turnarounds—the national database listed over five-hundred Jane Does in or near rest areas and truck stops alone. Some of these were the very truck stops I was now passing through, and yet I couldn’t uncover even rumors of past murders. The strangeness of this crystallized when I visited a Pennsylvania truck stop where I knew for a fact that two women had been killed, one found only yards from where the woman I was speaking to worked. Still, she “had never heard of anything like that.”

Vanessa Veselka, on “The Lack of Female Road Narratives and Why It Matters”

Kae Davantes was 25; managed accounts for McCann Erickson; her body was found beneath a bridge in Silang, Cavite, in a position beyond dehumanizing. I spent all day listening to her case on the radio, following its developments. She will be buried tomorrow, but her name must never be forgotten.

It is unfortunate and appalling to have to speak of Kae Davantes in the past tense, yet it is an undeniably familiar story, one that repeats itself in every type of cultural expression, both popular and esoteric, exploited and/or given justice by famous names from Capote to Caparas.

Today’s iterations should come with hashtags: #girl, #alone, #found, #dead; followed by the familiar cries of outrage for justice, for safety, and the typical legacy: a cautionary tale rife with the contradiction of a man’s presence in a woman’s life as both protection and threat. Louis CK even has a routine about it.

I have dangled tear gas, pepper spray, and mace; taken classes where I had to learn to kick a gun out of someone’s hand or use my hips to push away someone who has me pinned down by the shoulders. I still regularly deal with comments about my clothes, warning of the kinds of responses any amount of exposed flesh may elicit–the same goes for anything that might signal weakness or wealth or both. My mom put it most succinctly when I told her of my plans to house-sit for my dad (who’d been robbed several times) that I should “Imagine what ‘they’ would do if they found out a girl was living in that house alone.

“Then why does he (meaning my dad) have to live there alone?” I shot back. And she said, “That’s different.” Meaning he isn’t a woman, meaning his vulnerability, unlike mine, was negotiable.

My mom still tells my sister to “Be careful walking from the parking lot to your apartment,” and my grandmother used to tell us not to go out at night–ever. I tend to forget how deeply we’ve confused paranoia with pragmatism because of how normal it feels to be afraid all the time. Pressed between the fingertips of a #girl #alone, i.e. me, a lighted cigarette becomes a weapon–albeit a pathetic one, but a weapon nonetheless, granting but not guaranteeing some illusion of safety.

Each time a story like the Davantes case found its way into the headlines was a warning. Imagine if the stories of women who’d met similar fates were granted just as much attention. If the newspapers were more faithful to the actual statistics, would the outrage increase proportionately – enough to eradicate the threat? Or would this dull our senses, allow us to accept violence and the disposability of human life as normal, as a means to justify our well-intentioned warnings to “Please, be careful,” when what we really mean is to be aware of a world that will take no accountability for tagging you as dispensable, of its unspeakable atrocities, and of the men behind them.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

One thought on ““Please, be careful.””

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