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Salope; verbal harassment.

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S-A-L-O-P-E, noun f: (vulgarpejorativeslut; whorebitch

She had been keeping an eye on the screen of her phone, pressing the top button to check the time. 1.20am. 1.28am. 1.43am. Shit! It’s gone. She has surely missed the last train from Place de Clichy, if not it’s too late now to make the connection at Saint Lazare. Looking around the room at the temporary friends, enjoying their Cinco de Mayo party (or what is left of it) she feels a sudden weariness.

She knows that she could rally, maybe even pull an all-nighter, but right now she’d rather just head back to her apartment in the 11th. The tired young English woman gulps the last of her virgin margherita and begins her goodbye tour of the soirée; la bise on both cheeks for the French, hugs for the Americans.

“But there’s no more metro, you might as well wait for the first of the morning!” they suggest. “Ahh non, prenez le Noctilien, y a le 23 de la Place de Clichy.”

Yes, the night bus had crossed her mind. 23 to Châtelet, change to the 12. But there was nothing she would rather do less than take a night bus full of men and drunken party goers on her own, only to have to do the same again at the sleazy area around Châtelet. She had done it alone once, aided by the false courage of many pints of 1664 and a few tequilas but her sobriety tonight has made her more aware of her insecurities and she isn’t in the mood to go through that.

So, Vélib it is. She says her final au revoirs and makes her way through the building’s shared garden, stealing a last look at the burning yellow glow from the party. Watching her friends without them noticing her she feels a pang of joy and gratitude to have found these happy, smiling, fun-loving people, making the city a little less lonely.

Photo by Christina Klug

Photo by Christina Klug

Once at the bustling Place de Clichy she struggles to find the bike stations. Eventually she spots the grey sign for the Vélib but the docks are all empty. People are passing all around her but they are busy with their own lives and late-night dramas. She will have to fend for herself in this foreign place.

Trying to look confident she checks the map and figures out where to find some bikes, heading off in the general direction whilst keeping an eye on the street names.

“Eh, Eh, meuf.”

She hesitates and glances behind, realising the man has been addressing her, and only now properly registering his earlier remark of “Why don’t you smile?” She rolls her eyes and continues her search for a ride home, hoping to find the right street soon.

Again she hears the man’s voice. “Hey! Gros cul, tu me parles pas?” She speeds up away from him, trying to ignore the fact that a complete stranger has just commented on the size of her bottom.

“Ahh, salope.” The man spits out, before giving up on her.

She winces at this word but tries to take it in her stride, not wanting to appear weak. Finally finding the bike station, she goes through the ritual of calmly adjusting the saddle and checking the brakes, before heading off down the boulevard. She pounds the pedals as fast as she can as the words ‘gros cul’ and ‘salope’ repeat around and around in her head.

“Could I have handled it differently?” she wonders.  “Did I do something to provoke him?” She shakes off these thoughts and as she sails past the N12, stopped to engulf more loud, bleary-eyed passengers, is thankful she is nearly home. It could have been worse on the bus.

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