Two weeks on from Ashling Murphy’s death, women are looking over their shoulders for a few seconds longer than before.
Ashling Murphy was a bright young woman who did everything right.
She thought she would get home safe.
But now, that fear of walking or running alone is no longer exclusive to dusk, dawn, or darkness.
The daylight has been taken too.
I live and study in Galway City. I am 22 years old. Every morning, I wake up, look out the window, think about coffee, and how it’s still dark out.
I debate sitting at home a while longer and having one, instead of buying a latte on my commute.
Or, I could get the bus in now, and skip coffee today, even though the bus takes longer than walking does.
Of course, saving money is the only reason to delay my 15/20 minute on-foot commute.
Why else would I stay home and wait for sunrise?
I pack my laptop, phone, and both chargers. But not before making sure that my phone is charged enough to survive my walk. That would be an inconvenience, of course.
Why else would I make sure of this?
If I forget my laptop, I can survive, I can use the PC on campus. If I forget my phone charger, however, that may not be the case. Who can live without their mobile turned on in 2022?
Once I have my coffee, I put my earphones in, with the audio less than halfway up, and head to college. Since I need to be able to listen out for cars on the road, of course.
Why else would I have the music so low?
I go about my day, I get my work done, and charge up my phone before leaving. I could get an important email or message on the way home that I need to reply to, of course.
Why else would I need my phone at seven o’clock at night?
I check my housemates’ locations, to see if they’re on campus. We have them shared with each other, just so we know who’s in college and who’s at home, of course.
Why else would we need to know where the others always are?
I text them, asking if they are heading home soon too. A bit of company would be nice, since we’re all going in the same direction, of course.
Why else would I want somebody to walk home with?
I call my parents for a chat, making sure to tell them I’m walking home. They’re only in Donegal, they know that it’s dark out. They listen to me, and to what’s going on around me.
One earphone in, and the audio low, but just so I can listen out for cars, of course.
I take the longer, better-lit road home. If I fall or slip or something, there’d be more chance of people seeing me on the well-lit, main road path, of course.
Why else would I lengthen my commute when it’s dark out?
I keep my keys in my hand at all times, strategically placed. I don’t want to be fumbling around looking for them at the door when it’s cold, of course.
Why else would I hold my keys the entire time?
Coming up to the driveway, I tell my parents where I am, that I love them, and I’ll talk to them tomorrow. I call them because the only chance I get to talk to them properly is on my commute home, of course.
Why else would I ring them every single day I walk home from campus on my own?
I loosen the grip on my keys, unlock the door, and breathe a sigh of relief while closing it behind me. Thank God that day is over. Now, for dinner.
Why else would I be so glad to get home?
There is a logical explanation for everything I do.
I do everything right. I am every woman in this country.
Women don’t expect a watershed moment. Nor do we want one.
We expect to be able to walk or run alone without getting attacked or murdered.
Ashling Murphy is all of us.
And we all could be Ashling Murphy.