Friday, August 26, 2011
“I love this place you moved to,” I said to my cousin as we rounded the bend. We could see her house beyond the bowing limbs of the trees. “How did you even know about this place?”
“Some of my husband’s family lives here.”
“Have they always lived here?” I inquired.
“Well, not always,” she answered. “This is where his cousin grew up here; then he went away to Southern California for school. He had always had a desire to come back, to raise his family here in a smaller town, but he met a girl, married her, and his plans were changed. This girl he married was a city girl down to her core. She wouldn’t consider moving, even with his persistent persuading.”
My cousin paused and bent down to toss a significant-sized stone from the road.
“Well, what happened?” I urged her to continue. “Go on.”
“They were at a video rental store,” she continued. “At that time they had their first born baby, and she was in a baby carrier attached to mama. They were busy looking for a video to rent, when all of a sudden, someone burst through the door of the store with a gun and started screaming, ‘Everyone down!!!’ They both lay there on the floor, mama lying on top of baby. And at that very moment, she turned her head, looked at her husband, and whispered, ‘Okay, I will move.’ And the rest is history. They have been here ever since.”
Another victim, I thought to myself. It was something I was used to hearing about all of my life. It was no longer surprising to me, but expected.
My thoughts fluttered back to all of the times when I and other loved ones had been victimized.
*I remember the time I was walking home from the store. A roaring engine approached behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see the large white truck pull up and follow slowly beside me. A man’s voice startled me, “Want a ride?” My heart began to pound wildly; I shook my head, began praying, and started running.
*I remember another time while working in my dad’s real estate office. I was in my early teenage years, and I was alone, in charge of answering the phones on a Sunday afternoon. Suddenly my attention was averted from the phone by a knocking at the back door behind me. I turned around to see a man standing behind the glass doors of the office. He stood there fidgeting with a tan colored fanny-pack wrapped around his waist, but as I looked closer, it wasn’t a fanny-pack at all! He was playing with a different kind of “package”. But how and why was it was tan!!!??? I turned to call the police; then looked back, but he was gone, like a phantom. A phantom pervert. The hardest kind to catch.
*My brother, another victim. His eye and the scars surrounding speak as a constant reminder of gang violence. I remember that morning well, waking up in the wee hours of the morning to the phone ringing, my mother on the other line, “Honey, your brother is going into the operating room right now to have his eyeball removed unless by some miracle the doctor can save it.” Some hoodlum had smashed a flashlight through my brother’s car window, shattering the glass and popping his eyeball. Fortunately, the eyeball was to be saved; as for his vision, he was not so fortunate.
*My cousin, yet another victim. She worked at a flower shop in Long Beach. A man walked through the door yelling, “Everybody on the ground!” And then he robbed the place.
I was used to feeling cautious, always looking behind my back, always ready to fight an attacker.
"Think you can jump out of the bushes at me?” Think again, Bushman."
"Go back to the hedge you came from, Buddy."
As I walked down this beautiful country road with my cousin, I just felt so safe. This feeling of safety was so unfamiliar to me.
I know you can be victimized anywhere in the world, even on a beautiful country road, but I felt so at ease and out of harm’s way here. My fears had drifted far away from my mental awareness. Sure, at night I was afraid of the “somethings” creeping around the land, but during the day, deep breath, it was wonderful.
And I liked this foreign feeling of safety.