I've only been shot at once that I know of. There might have been other attempts on my life, probably unsuccessful, that I don't know about, but as far as actual weapons are concerned, I can only think of the one incident. And it's not even like Lary wanted to kill me at the time, either. It was more like he was just really frustrated with me and thought, wrongly, that I might be deterred from seeking his company by a flying bullet.
So it's not like I've ever been in tons of danger, unless you want to count the times (there have been a couple) that people tried to kidnap me. And I'm not talking about bogus incidents like the one in which my cocaine-addicted roommates blindfolded me on the morning of my 17th birthday and took me to Solana Beach for breakfast, making me miss my economics class and thereby starting the domino effect that led to me flunking out of college that year. No, I'm talking about actual malicious attempts to abduct me that are absolutely, without a doubt, probably not at all part of my imagination.
Like the time when we lived in Florida and my mother was working on the last Apollo moon launch, and there had been some security alert that prompted the government to post "protection" on the street in front of our house. That "protection" consisted of one guy in a sedan who didn't even lift a finger when two other guys came and stole my father's motor home right out of our driveway. Granted, it was more like a repossession than a theft, but my sisters and I could have been sleeping in there, and the evil ex-employers of my father who took the motor home didn't even bother to empty it out. They just towed it away along with my Jesus Christ Superstar album and my little sister's stuffed monkey.
"Where the hell were you kids?" my father fumed when he came back from the bar to find the driveway empty.
"We were inside making popcorn for dinner," my sister cried.
"Next time," he said -- and I swear to God he said this -- "keep an eye out and lay your body down in front of the wheels when someone tries to tow away the motor home."
"What if they roll it over us and kill us?" my other sister protested.
"They won't kill you, you're kids," my father insisted. "Just lay there. Lay there!"
Luckily, we never had the opportunity after that to fully test his instructions. He never got another job selling trailers, though he did sell some used cars, and I never got kidnapped. Though once, while I was walking home from my next college, the one I graduated from after being kicked out of my first, it was late and isolated on the street and some Taliban members (OK, cold-hearted killers) pulled up and parked a short distance in front of me, and right there, right in front of me, they clicked the release lock on their trunk and it popped open as though readying itself for when I got trapped inside. The killers (OK, masturbating rapists) just waited there in the car, watching in their rearview mirror as I approached; their car trunk open like a big beckoning web, and me the stupid, goggle-eyed gnat that would flit right into it and lie there, stuck by my own idiocy.
So I foiled the rapists (OK, two campus security officers) by ducking into the back yard of the lush who lived next door to my apartment building. She was truly a wretched old acid vat, whose nightly booze-addled shriekings at her teenage son had so sleep-deprived me that I'd once hallucinated setting fire to her front porch. Tonight was no different. "You are worthless," she blobbered from inside. "If you ever grow up it'll be behind bars."
So as I sneaked through her back yard, who do I stumble across but her son, just lying there in the yard by an abandoned car that had belonged to the former tenant. I'd never even seen the son but knew it was him because I recognized his voice as he yelled back to his mother. "Fuck you, you awful old bitch," he hollered. It was really late for a teenager to be yelling obscenities at his mother on a school night, and I thought about calling the police like I'd done the night before, hoping it would shut them up so I could get some sleep, but the effort had just resulted in the two of them ganging up on the officer, who didn't even arrest them. So I simply stood there unnoticed as they yelled at each other.
"You ugly old cunt," he hollered.
"Just go away. Just leave and don't come back," she yelled back.
But he didn't leave, he just lay there like a big ball of hate. I remember thinking that, for all the imperfections my own parents flaunted, at least they never left me lying in the back yard late at night with my soul sucked out of me. At least they didn't use me as an emotional ashtray every night. "I don't care where you go," she continued to shriek at him, "just don't come back." I stood there, stunned, and as I watched the boy just lie there with eyes as cold and dead as two pounded nail heads, it was then that I realized the true depth of danger in the world.
Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."
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