By John Oberholzer
Women’s History Month Prose Winner
What’s in your pockets right now? Have a feel, pat them down.
Somewhere in the world, not far from you; a man is walking down the street. He’s on his way to meet a girl he found on tinder last week. There’s a wallet in his pocket. Inside it is a provisional driver’s licence, his older brother’s Tesco club card, his credit card (which is maxed out) and of course, a condom. It’s expired. Did you know they could do that? He stole it from a PSHCE lesson in year nine. It has sat in his wallet proudly, ever since. It has been removed from his wallet only a number of times. It shows its colourful red face and says quietly “I am prepared. I am safe.” But never once has it protected anyone. The token condom burns his pockets, filling his chest with a nervous buzz.
Across the street from him is a woman, strolling briskly home. She doesn’t have any pockets. She has her hand in her bag, clutching tightly her phone. She doesn’t have any pockets because it makes her more dependent, more vulnerable, more alone. In her bag she has lipstick, Vaseline, a handheld portable mirror and spare pads just in case. Beneath her phone, kissing the back of her hand, is a bottle of mace.
They pass each other, glancing briefly. The woman’s eyes widen. The man’s brows tighten. Thank god on this day, they are two ships passing.