It was a Saturday night in the Oude Noorden district – after 1am, as I recall. My bike had been stolen and it would be another half an hour’s walk to the nearest metro station. It didn’t take long to start feeling sore in my high heels. The damp cold chilled me through my sweater and I could feel the lecherous gazes of men in alleyways as goosebumps on my skin. I looked longingly at a tram rattling past. It was out of service and already on its way to the terminus, but the driver saw me and beckoned me over. I rushed across the street and into the empty tramcar.

Having made sure I’d gotten on board, the driver enquired whether I was all right. He told me he was under the impression that I could do with some help. I had to hold on tight – a tram with no scheduled stops picks up quite a bit of speed. I thanked him. “I’d ended up in a situation in which I couldn’t be sure who to trust. I wasn’t even sure I could trust my own judgement. After all, I was the one responsible for getting my bike stolen, having left the key in the lock.” We chatted as I stood in the doorway of his cab. I guessed his age as a little over thirty, but it was hard to be sure: he kept staring straight ahead as we traversed Rotterdam’s dark streets. I let my hair down and massaged my temples.

I often wonder if I should be more afraid when I’m out alone on the streets. It’s not like I never look over my shoulder, but it still preys on my mind. I asked my girlies and we all agreed: we have a right to have fun, whether it’s in the library or in Wunderbar. Other than that, we’re not thinking all that much about everything that could go wrong. What never ceases to amaze me, however, is how many encounters in the street have a duality about them – like the one with the driver who gives way only to wolf-whistle after you or the Prince Charming who gallantly saves you from a pervert, only to become a predator himself.

The tram driver and I had nearly reached Oostplein, where I could catch the last metro. “Are you sure I can’t take you home? I’m going that way anyway when my shift ends.” I politely declined and headed back into the night.

Giselle Timmers 1_2023_2560_Pauline Wiersema_Levien Willemse

Read the previous column by Giselle

Summer of solitude

Columnist Giselle Timmers believes that there is one huge disadvantage to having…