November 2013, Northern California. I tagged along with a new friend and her girlfriend on a three-hour drive north, to a small rural lesbian community that has been in existence since the '70s. It was deeply quiet there — one of those places where I notice how noisy my ordinary life is because all of a sudden that noise is just gone.
The pond was too cold even for just my feet, but if I'd wanted to go swimming, I could have. No swimsuit, but I could have just taken off my clothes and jumped in. Maybe come summer. Doors remain unlocked, and you can fall asleep alone in the grass without worrying about your safety or possessions.
My friend had to point that out to me when I said I was sleepy; it didn't occur to me. I was reminded of what Sylvia Plath, nineteen years old, wrote in her diary about the "awful tragedy...[of being born a woman]":
...all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery....I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night...That awareness of the constant potential for danger that comes with being a woman in a violent patriarchal world, that is a kind of psychic noise too. And again, it's easy not to notice how it wears on you until you feel what an afternoon is like without that. And that quiet is almost bewildering...
I am carrying that afternoon with me. That taste of freedom, and the conviction that by rights I should have that freedom anywhere.
I am trying to imagine who I would be if my safety and privacy were always so inviolate.