o R e a s o n
girls, returning home from a day of wandering and laughing, and ogling
boys. One of them was tough, raised in the city, raw on the edges.
The other had first seen the strange glow of a street light from inside
a bar just weeks earlier and still lost sleep over the sirens. They
were new friends, like the city mouse and the country mouse.
It was dusk, and they were in the neighborhood.
Not heading in necessarily, but stopping at the apartment of the
mother, gone to work and not aware there were two girls staying
there. It was summer, August, and people were out on the stoops,
laughing; kids running and playing in the street. They stopped at
the corner market - a Sprite for you, a rootbeer for me.
The shadows were long as they walked. The
girl from the country noticed these things. As they went, a group
of boys came in their direction... spewing loud, course, ugly words.
The girls continued... on a collision course with these six. The
paths crossed, and they were bumped from their steps but kept walking.
The girl from the country glanced down at the shadows, realized
too late as a long shadow crossed hers, and she exploded.
She heard a shriek as she crumbled, the
profanities of her friend, but she didn't care because she didn't
know where she was going. Just down.
The blackness remained while she touched her head,
and thought the stickiness of her hair was blood... tasting it with one
finger, she knew it was Sprite and was relieved to let the nothingness
The friend came back and touched her, and she
returned again, but reluctantly. She sat up on that sidewalk, and
looked around at the stoops... the people sitting there, watching.
Surely this was better than TV, better than Oprah. They began the
long painful walk to the hospital, because they didn't know what
else to do. The x-rays confirmed a dislocated jaw, which had relocated...
just rest and take these pills. The police came; the six had been
arrested after attacking an old man just blocks up the street. They
were identifiable by the long scratch marks the city mouse left
on the face of one boy. She laughed... he had had some time shaking
her off his back. They were all juvies... should be out in six months.
And so began my experience outside of the woods
I grew up in. I was sixteen, a long time ago, and had run away from home
weeks earlier. I didn't go home then, in fact, I doubt it ever occurred
to me. I fancied myself experiencing life first hand, and I did. I remained
in the city for at least 4 more months, returning a year later and staying.
I can't tell you how long it has been since I gave a lot of thought to
this minute episode of my life. So why now? Well, I was walking home the
other night, from the gym, in the same city. Different neighborhood. A
young boy came out of the park behind me, to the left of my vision, and
passed behind me, to cross the street. I glanced at the sidewalk, and
saw a shadow pass over mine and my heart froze. I never stopped walking,
not for a split second, but my heart let out a THUMP that the kid probably
could have heard if he wasn't across the street already.
I thought a lot while I walked home; I remembered
that night, 14 years ago, and my first experience with the city.
I thought of the people who sat on their stoops watching. I wondered
why that kid wanted to sneak up behind me, grab me around the neck
and crash a fist full of gold into my jaw. I also thought about
prejudice, and the personal crusades I've been on for most of my
adult life to educate people about stereotyping and hate. I thought
about all the times I've said angrily to a bigot "Just because
one person did you wrong, gives you NO reason...!" I wondered,
with deep sadness, if I was a hypocrite because that young kid made
my heart go thump. I asked myself when I'd ever learn to not be
out there like that. I wondered why I had never been able to hate.
I realized I had no clue what color the boy was, and I was thinking
In three blocks to home, I thought about my actions,
and the people I've loved, and the way I had lived since that afternoon.
I forgave myself for being human.