7 day song challenge, day #1: See You On a Dark Night

TW: sexual assault

As a kid I was lucky enough to grow up in a suburb where I always felt safe walking at night. My friends and I used to go on night adventures all the time as teens, haunting school playgrounds and netball courts and the random patches of forest that grew in between houses. We would cast spells, gossip, sometimes drink. Walking home, usually around 2 or 3 in the morning, I would have to split off from the group and head down this long stretch of poorly lit road, and then through the twisting backstreets of suburbia to my parents’ house. And I enjoyed those walks; there were always bats about, and I had space and time to think before the sun came up and day-to-day life began again.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

A year before I moved to Brunswick, which is where I live in now, a woman was killed. She was abducted while walking home from a night out with friends, from a pub I’d spent many nights at during university. She’d only been a couple of twisting backstreets away from where she lived. Backstreets I’d covered many times in between friends’ houses and tram stops, often walking for much longer than I needed to because I was poor, and couldn’t afford money for a taxi, but also because I wanted to. One of the newspapers marked out her route on a map and when I saw it my insides froze up; I’d walked that way before.

I don’t know if I was actually any safer in my old suburb that I am in my new one. Perhaps that tough, glittering, teenage-girl-feeling of untouchability kept me safe somehow, shimmering like a mirage, there but not really. Now, when I’m faced with the possibility of having to walk home alone at night, I don’t look forward to the space and time, to the bats or the lights. I don’t feel free.
I feel trapped.
I weigh up the options.
I could get a taxi (that’s $12 minimum), or an uber (a little less).
I could call and hope that my partner’s awake so that he can come meet me at the tram stop.
I could walk with my keys in between my fingers, and my phone to my ear, making imaginary conversations with myself, hoping it doesn’t ring.
I could, I could, I could…

The night doesn’t belong to me anymore. And I hate that.

I loved this song first for the way it sounds alone. It’s catchy. The vocals are haunting, but playful. I love the way Grimes samples in this track, the sounds she chooses, not quite fitting together, but in a way that makes you listen harder. I’m always surprised at finding new sounds creeping through every time I hear this song. It reminds me of a patch of forest at night.

But when I heard what the song was really about, it became my anthem. What she does with this song is nothing short of genius. She is taking something incredibly painful (her own sexual assault) and turning it around to face the perpetrator. By weaving that pain into something upbeat, something poppy and fun, something that she has since built a career in music on, she is taking all the power away from her attacker.  And I love that

And so on nights when I have to walk with my keys between my fingers, I chant these words in my head. It doesn’t make me feel untouchable, or even safe. But it makes me feel like I am gathering some of that power back.

See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night.

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