Safety in Numbers

She imagined he had broad shoulders, a muscular chest, and strong arms. He didn’t have them, but she imagined them anyway.

She imagined he had pale skin, freckles on his cheeks, and plump, pink lips. He didn’t have them, but she imagined them anyway.

She imagined he had large, blue eyes, the kind of eyes that she might have become lost within if they had stared at her with powerful, romantic determination. The kind of eyes that were like oceans, that she could have drowned in. He didn’t have them, but she imagined them anyway.

She imagined he was well groomed, well dressed, and thoroughly handsome. He wasn’t, but she imagined he was anyway.

He had a hunched back, a large, round stomach from years of failing to look after himself, and an overall tired look about him. His skin was covered in dirt and oil, marked with age lines, and covered in scars. He had a pair of beady, dark eyes that stared at her in raw, unabashed hunger, leaving her uncomfortable at his lack of shame or respect. His dirty, scruffy clothes were only matched by the lack of attention he had given to the rest of himself, and he was like an ogre looming over her.

When he leaned towards her, getting far too close and slurring his words until they became a tangled mess, she imagined that he was someone else. When he asked her if she wanted to join him for a drink, she pretended that he did not frighten her, that his large form did not intimidate her. She imagined someone else, someone who did not make her feel sick, just so she could hold herself together as he persisted.

‘No, thank you,’ she repeated, over and over again, until she began to get agitated and dropped the pleasantries. The word no continued to fall out of her mouth like a mantra, and eventually he back off, stumbling away and muttering that she was a prude.

Even in her most powerful moment of their conversation, when he had given up hitting on her and left, he had done what he could to make her feel small and pitiful.

She imagined he had not said anything to her at all, then hurried back to the comfort of her friends.

‘Don’t leave me to go off to the bathroom in here on my own,’ she said to them, as she rejoined the group and imagined that she was fine.

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