You are the one who gets away. The one who doesn't accept that drink she didn't see get made, provoking the dude in the backwards baseball cap to scream, "I'm not a rapist!" You never said he was but now you've got suspicions. You are the one who gets a bad vibe from those guys in the dive bar, like they’re all gripping the wooden handles of steel knives to press against the thin skin on your neck, and it has you calling an Uber instead of shoving your tongue down the ginger's throat. You're the one watching the placement of their hands and observing the thin veneer of civility they fake before they can reveal the fur and canines of the endless-stomached wolf beneath. You will not be their dinner tonight. You make it home okay. You don't get roofied or raped. You don’t wake up wondering where your underwear is. You’re one of the lucky ones. The adrenaline of having narrowly escaped a closing cage keeps you up past when the other girls stumble home, eyeliner smeared and unclear about what happened. Shaking off their discomfort and the tiny voices in their heads by confirming via text that it was awesome! So much fun! If only it weren't for you. They call you a worrywart to your face and a stuck-up, no-fun bitch behind it. They stop inviting you out. No one wants a reminder of the fragility of their bodies. The unimportance of their volition. Or how easily their autonomy can be snatched away by some no-named rando on a whim. All they want is oblivion. To forget their student loan debt and the ever-louder ticking of their biological clock for an hour or two. You are too intense, too real, too pulsing. Ignoring reality has only ever given you a ruptured appendix when you were twelve. But your reality checks, like the one that kept you alive, harsh their buzz. You would’ve had to block out that night for one reason or another. You chose the one where you find out who your friends really are. You didn't even realize it was a choice. The small voice of self-protection in the back of your head was momentarily louder than your desire to get along and be cool. But you’ve never been cool. You’ve never been willing to make the sacrifice.
-- Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and an army of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in Monkeybicycle, The Molotov Cocktail, matchbook, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. “The One Who Gets Away” is from her debut chapbook Breaking Points (Black Lawrence Press, 2021). Find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.