Saturday, July 16, 2011

out of nowhere.

I don't even know why I wrote this, but I felt compelled to, so I finally sat down and got it out of my system. I don't even know if there is anything interesting in it for others, but none the less, I don't shrug away from it.


Twenty years ago, I was the victim of a random, stupid act of violence. I was walking the streets of my neighborhood, a wooded, suburban subdevelopment in northern Virginia. It’s a nice place, filled with two-story colonial homes and large families. There were lots of two-car garages, tall trees and big laws. I walked all the time, it was my escape from the rigors of being a twelve year old; a chance to just clear my head and stretch my legs.

Imagine my surprise when out of nowhere, two miles from my home, a silver pickup pulls up next to me while I’m walking. There are four kids in it, all between sixteen and nineteen as best as I could figure. Two were in the cab and two were in the back. The passenger, the one closest to me, asked me the time. Not thinking anything of it, I looked down at my watch, read the time and looked up again. Before I could say anything, one of the kids in the back vaulted over the side, landing right in front of me. I was looking at his collarbone; he was that much taller than me. The kid in the passenger’s seat laughed manically, adding “He called your mom a ho, man. He called your mom a ho!”

I took a half step back, putting my hands up, ready to pivot on my back ankle and bolt the second I had the chance. I was right in front of a house with a steep hill for a front yard, the truck would never be able to follow me through the rain-ditch and up that hill. Even in that split second I remember thinking that even if they could only follow me on foot, I was better off being run down by for people than four people with a pickup truck. All I needed was one more step back and I would be far enough to turn and run.

I never got that second step.

The blow came so fast I never saw it. The kid in front of me lashed out with a closed fist, hitting the left side of my head and snapping my face down towards the ground like a sledgehammer. I saw stars and heard the impact as much as I felt it. It was like having someone box my ears.

I turned where I was, facing the relatively steep grade of grass just a few feet in front of me. I launched myself forward with everything I had. I screamed at the top of my lung for help. It wasn’t a cry, or a shout, it was the embodiment of what I was thinking at that moment; “My God, I’m being attacked and I don’t know what they are going to do to me now.”

I pushed myself as fast as I could up the hill, shrieking for help as loud as my lungs could push the sound. Behind me I could hear more maniacal laughing, all four of them were celebrating my retreat. I was maybe three steps up the hill when I looked back. My eyes caught sight of them just as the one who hit me jumped back into the back. The wheels spun and the truck shot off, all four faces looked at me with humor, joy and celebration in their eyes.

In that second, my mind stopped thinking as a victim, and snapped back to the present, back to who I was, and what I was capable of. I can’t even fully describe the transition, but I know it was faster than a light switch.

I remember thinking “Oh no you don’t!” as I lunged back, clearing the rain ditch in a single flying leap and running out into the middle of the street. The two in the back were still laughing, looking right at me, one of them was flicking me off as the truck slowed just enough to blow through a stop sight and take the right turn out of the subdevelopment. I could see all of it, their faces, their laugher, their joy, their absolute jubilation at having attacked me.

But I didn’t care, I wasn’t looking “at” them.

I was looking at the back end of their truck.

When the truck was gone, I turned once again and charged up the hill, still scared, still shaken, in pain, but now furious. The homeowner, a man I had never met before, came out his front door, worry on his face. “Are you alright?” He asked me. “I heard a scream for help.”

“I need to use your phone!” I said, breathless, shaking, and suddenly tired. “I was just attacked.”

Moments later he handed me a cordless handset. I dialed 911 and waited one ring for the operator to answer. I remember the first words out of my mouth. “Hello, operator, I was just attacked on the street by four guys. ” I must have sounded like I had run a mile; I could hear my own heartbeat, and I was still shaking. But I still remember the look of pleasant surprise on the homeowner’s face when I said the next sentence. “They were in a silver pickup truck, and I have the license plate number for you.”

Not long after that I calmed down enough to remember to call my mother, who promptly dropped everything and drove over. Not a minute after she arrived as Sheriff’s deputy pulled up as well. We all exchanged greetings and then he said something that I never would have expected. He was talking to my mother, but about me, so we were standing together right in front of him.

“Actually, just before I got here,” he explained “I got a call from Aquia Harbor; we think we have them already.” My mother was speechless, and I was pretty stunned too. Not in my wildest dreams did I expect to hear that from an officer twenty minutes after the crime itself. “All I need,” he continued “if for your son to come with me and see if he can identify his attacker.”

My mother gave me a worried look, and asked me if I felt up to it. The worst of my fear was gone by then, and I was ready to go toe to toe with one of those thugs if I had to in order to bring him to justice.

“Just tell me where to go.” I said to the deputy.

“You sure you’re up to it?” He asked.

I nodded. “You’re damned right I’m ready!”

We rode over in his cruiser. On the way he asked me about the attack and I recounted it to him.

“So, you ran back out into the road just to get their license plate number?”

I nodded, still trying to put words to my logic. “It was all I could think to do. I wasn’t going to just let them get away with it.”

The deputy shook his head. “That’s pretty unreal.” He said. “I don’t know too many people who would think to do that after taking a hit to the face like yours.” The bruise on my face was forming up by then. Nothing was broken, thank God, but I was going to have a hell of a shiner in the morning.

“What would you have done?” I asked.

“Personally,” he said with a laugh. “Four-on-one; I’d of shot’em.” He patted his service pistol, “All four of‘em.”

“Okay,” I agreed, laughing as well. “But without the gun, what would you have done? Do you think I should have kept running, or maybe stood and fight?”

The man shook his head. “No, you did exactly what you should have done, you ran for help, and that probably why we aren’t having this talk in the back of an ambulance. I just think It’s damned amazing that you thought to run back out and get their tag number. If you hadn’t done that, well, I’ll be honest with you, there wasn’t much chance of catching them.”

I don’t know exactly why, but that startled me. I hadn’t even really thought about it until then, but I did have the choice to just keep running. And lord knows I had all the reasons in the world to. But I hadn’t kept running, instead, somewhere in my adrenalin flooded mind I made an decision to turn the tables and strike back the best way I knew how. But what really got me was how little thought I had put into the process; I had just decided to turn around and do it, no thought, no pause, just split second action.

We arrived a few minutes later. Aquia Harbor was a 700 home subdevelopment in the north of the county, and part of the dues everyone paid for covered a small team of private security guards who worked the entrances. I found out later that the silver truck had come up to the gate of Aquia Harbor minutes after the dispatcher had broadcast their description and tag number. The moment the guards saw the truck, they pulled the kids out and called the Sheriff’s department. By the time I got there it was sunset, and with the tall trees in that part of the state, most of the light was now from streetlamps. There were three deputies there, above and beyond the two security guards, and all four kids were lined up against a wall with a pair of headlights pointed at them.

I was told I could stay in the car, that I didn’t need to get out. But I did. I opened the door and stepped out so that I could see them all clearly. That was when I saw the guy who hit me, standing there with a cocky grin on his face, not a care in the world. “Second from the left.” I said to the deputy. He waived at his comrades, who walked up to the kid. I found out later that no one had told them why they were pulled aside, evidently they thought it was something to do with a busted tail light on their truck.

When they reached the kid he shrugged away from them. “Leave me alone!” He insisted. “Get your hands off me. I didn’t do anything.”

“That’s the one who hit me!” I shouted it so loud that is surprised even me. Everyone jumped a little, but the kid looked like he was about to have a heart attack. He looked in my direction, and I think he saw me, but I can’t be a hundred percent sure. I was madder than hell just then. I was ready to walk up to him and write “HIM” across his face with a sharpie if I had to. He probably could have pulled a gun at me just then and it wouldn’t have scared me. When I realized he was looking at me I added “That’s right! I’m the one you hit on the street back there, and I think these men want to talk to you about that!”

All four of the kids suddenly looked like someone had walked over their graves. That was when I realized that they actually thought no one was ever going to catch them, that they could get away with crap like that because they had a fast truck, and because they targeted a kid too young to fight back. The final proof was what I heard my stunned attacker saying as they stuffed him into the back of another cruiser.

“Its not possible… its not [explitive] possible…”

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