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  • Looking up from the sidewalk, I saw the white light man give way to a flashing hand as numbers counted down. Five. Four. Three. Two...

    I stopped at the corner, watching and waiting as the stoplight beside them (the man and the hand) changed from green to yellow, as rush hour traffic stopped on all sides of the street and I turned to step from the curb, cutting the cross traffic.

    At the opposite corner, a police cruiser inched forward and the driver, a female officer, pointed her finger at me, her mouth working silently against the news in my ears. I extracted a bud and stepped toward the open window.

    "You wait for the light to change," she growled at me. "You wait for your signal."

    I stood there, holding the earbud and waiting.

    "The next time you do that, it's a $25 ticket."

    "OK," I shrugged and kept walking.

    Three years ago, I was drugged and assaulted six blocks away. I may have been the victim of an attempted rape but don't really remember. I don't remember much from that part of the night or the day that followed. Waking in an unknown building with police officers shouting at me. My pants were missing. Waking in the hospital. Crying.

    "Now I don't drink," a female officer lectured me as I lay in a gurney, "but a woman shouldn't drink like that."

    I'd gone to the bar to give a book to a friend and stayed when I ran into others, drinking, yes, but more water than beer and talking more than drinking over the course of the night. I'd had four beers in five hours.

    She continued her lecture on responsible drinking, placing the blame firmly in my bare lap as I wondered how I was going to get home without pants. It was a short step between woman delivering book and woman riding the metro in a hospital gown and pink rubber rain boots. The officer made me feel worse.

    The police didn't do much to help then, but they might have been busy with other things, like jaywalking pedestrians.

    Perhaps I should have waited instead of stepping off of the curb midway through the five-second delay between green and red, and it is five seconds. I know. I have stood on the corner and counted.

    I walk somewhere between five and 10 miles a day, more on the weekends, and I know these city streets, the corners, the lights and protected lefts. I have more than a nodding acquaintance with crossing guards in my neighborhood and wait when children are present. (Though, I'll follow if their parents cross.) I always cross at corners, in crosswalks, and watch to make sure that cars have stopped before stepping, but maybe I should have waited the remaining two and a half seconds of yellow.

    Three blocks later, I jaywalked again, following a man with tie and messenger bag and two kids on bikes.
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