The Rules of the Nighttime Treaty

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The door clicks shut,

Barely audible to my ears

Eager only to hear

The sound of my heartbeat

And the pad of my steps.

 

And          I           run.

 

My cheeks turning pink

As the overhead evening sky,

The horizon eating away the sun

As my legs electrify the ground.

 

But as the horizon licks its lips

And the sun and day are gone,

My smile slips.

 

New rules are in play.

 

The nighttime treaty- unspoken, unwritten,

Known by all women.

 

The streets are no longer ours.

They belong to the day’s shadows,

Who hide behind jobs and groceries and grins of imperfect teeth.

They are the warnings that keep me inside on darker days.

 

Are they myths?

Or terrorists?

 

I hold my breath as dark-tinted cars go by,

As the nightmares of my mind burn too close to the edge of reality.

 

I live a million lives between each street sign,

Imagine a million ways to make a hasty retreat.

Because now they own the streets.

 

My nails digging into my palm

As one with a beard

Says hey, calls me girl.

 

Is it scarier

Safer?

To be a girl?

A woman?

 

Under this nightly contract

Is there even a difference?

 

Relief:

I see one of my own.

 

We smile, we nod, we pass each other.

The smile a reassurance,

The nod a gesture,

Confirming the salvific clause.

 

That says one will call for angels

If demons get the other.

That one will call the papers

If the other’s name appears tomorrow.

 

These thoughts as familiar

As the streets I run,

As though thinking them is a means of protection,

Naivete visible on the backs of others, younger.

 

I do not feel safer

The closer I get to home.

 

Danger, fear, what and if

Are my running companions

And remain with me

So long as I dare defy the treaty.

 

But as I bound down the hill,

Momentum pulls me toward safety like a lifeline.

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I am the only one pulling.

 

I touch base and breathe,

Breathe

Breathe.

 

And I wonder how many times I escaped today.

 

And why we ever signed

On the dotted line.



Author: Caitlin Panarella

Caitlin Panarella is a writer, reader and grammar enthusiast, and is currently studying English and Women and Gender Studies at Georgetown University. After watching Miss Representation in high school, she developed a passion for analyzing media and literature portrayals of gender. When she’s not planning out trips around the world, you can find her running her favorite routes all over D.C., sipping tea while reading a book, or (re)watching Stranger Things. She’s thrilled to be a part of the Make Muse team and support women telling their own stories!