We recently published Joy Guo’s wrenching “Heart / Beat / Run.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) This whole piece is so powerful, so evocative. But the moment for me that just gives me the shivers is at the end, when the instructor reveals to the girl why she ran, why she ran, ran, ran. This is such an amazing detail to include, I just love it. There’s so many small things like that we sometimes ignore or overlook or pretend not to see. Do you think the girl in this story will be watching out for things like that more from now on?

No question. I’ve always felt conditioned to be polite, keep my head down, and ignore what’s right in front of you in order to not rock the boat. I included the instructor’s example of the businessman as a situation where you need to listen to your gut and sprint for the hills, politeness be damned. Now that the girl knows (at least a little) what to look out for, the next step is to trust that internal voice when it detects danger. 

2) And of course, a man interrupts the self-defense class! While it gives the instructor a good opportunity to demonstrate some subtler tactics, it really speaks to what these (all) women are facing. Do you think they will find any comfort in the fact that, yes, the man did, finally, leave? Or do you think they will focus on the fact that he felt emboldened to just step in and interrupt them?

This actually happened during a self-defense class I took with a friend, when a man just stood there and watched us for a few minutes. It was incredibly creepy and on-the-nose; the whole time, we kept asking ourselves, did the teacher hire an actor to do some real-time roleplaying? When he finally left, my initial reaction was one of overwhelming relief. It was only until much later, as I was writing the story, that I processed anger at the audacity of him just stepping in like that. Unfortunately, that sort of reaction is likely all too common – our first response is to thank our lucky stars that we came out of a situation unscathed, when really, that situation should not have been imposed on us in the first place.