To The Woman Who Said No

He knelt down on one knee for you

Eyes to yours, hand in his pocket

Your gaze jumping everywhere except for his

Your chest dropped to your stomach, thoughts becoming silent prayers

That the sets of eyes passing by would focus elsewhere


The four words that fell from his lips

Were a pair of hands that curled around your throat

Much like his had done so last week

Much like the weight of his fists

Before bruises crept up the sides of your back


His expression was soft

He wore the same furrowed brows, slightly curved lips, eyes round and hopeful

In the same sinister way as he did when he told you how much he loved you

He didn’t notice that your lips were a flat-lined heartbeat

He didn’t notice that you were a frail ribbon he couldn’t wrap around his ring finger


But you found the backbone to sheepishly decline

And somehow, the people hissed and catcalled you

They violently whistled as he tucked away the ring box

You could’ve faked the “yes” for his sake, but you didn’t

And you didn’t need to


The same men who howled at you

Who called you ungrateful, an undeserving bitch

Were the men who taught their daughters

To beware of the sea of predators

But failed to teach their sons that

No does not mean yes

And neither does her silence


Those people seemed to forget

Their daughters exist in a world where

Nail polish is built to detect date-rape drugs

Apps are designed to get you home safely

And women are blamed for their assault

When asked about the outfit they wore on the night of


You always do as your father told you:

You hold your purse close to your body

You fail to make eye-contact with the stranger walking by

You always recount your change to make sure you weren’t ripped off

You carry mace in your purse in the shape of a lipstick tube

You are always accompanied by a safe male presence when walking back to your car at night

And you say “no” when you need to


“No” should not have to taste sour on the tongue

“No” is a not a getaway, but it is a safe haven

“No” is a loaded weapon that we carry in our throats

“No” is destroying someone else if it means that we can preserve ourselves


Jenna D.


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