So, I went off to my walk tonight wondering what I was going to post about, and wishing something exciting had happened to me and mine in the last two days to make the choice easier.
Now, it’s getting close to the end of the school year, when I stop walking and start going to the gym to use the pool instead–and I really love this time, because I hate walking in the heat.
I may start swimming a little early this year.
The area I live in is not great. It’s not bad–there are some houses with really nice landscaping and there are a lot of people I say ‘howdy’ to in the course of my walk that make me feel safe and part of a community, but there are also a lot of houses like ours, where the lawn is always on the verge of dying, and it’s not much of a loss to humanity if it goes. I assume those houses are like us–basically nice people, but too flaky to really get into the whole ‘my lawn is my life’ facet of suburban living. There are only a couple of hurricane fences, but a disturbing number of foreclosures.
Some of the nicest houses/lawns/front doors are in the part of my walk that runs by the ‘gang house’. I know it’s a gang house–I’ve been trained to look for the signs! I can’t seem to find a way to write that which conveys my wide-eyed sarcasm in the face of my overwhelming gang-obliviousness. If there weren’t between five and twenty kids hanging out playing pool in Chicago Bulls (for the red and black) basketball shirts I wouldn’t know it’s a gang house–but I’ve got to tell you, they’re not exactly subtle.
And until tonight, I haven’t been afraid of them.
But as I walked up tonight, there was a big muscular car peeling out of the driveway, and what looked to be a fight on the verge of breaking out. That itself didn’t bother me–there’s a bunch of teenage boys hanging out, there will be some rough-housing. It happens.
But as the car pulled out, there was a clatter, and my head jerked by instinct to see what made that sound.
And a semi-automatic gun rattled to the blacktop in the middle of the road.
I stopped and looked at the gun, and looked up automatically to the people hanging out in front of the garage, and then to the kid walking out to pick up the gun.
The kid looked back at me to see what I’d do.
My neck snapped around and my feet moved forward and Kenny Loggins came up on my i-pod rotation and I let it play in spite of the fact that I’m not really a fan.
And I just kept walking. I walked my normal speed, although I probably had enough adrenaline in my body to work up to an actual run. I followed the culdesac around to the right, knowing that from the spot in the middle of the street where the kid had been, I was a big, fat, waddling target. I took the next turn to the left, knowing that if the kid had a mind to follow me, he could probably drop me with two well-placed shots. Probably even one. Most of the neighborhood knows that house–most of the houses are RELATED to the people in that house. If I got dropped in the dark on a Friday night, there would probably not be a soul who would profess to see who did it.
Which would be a shame, because I was, at that moment, perfectly willing to vouch exactly the same sentiment about the ugly piece of metal that had clattered out of that car.
Well, I obviously made it home, but it’s weird what you think about while you’re pretending your world didn’t just shift sideways on its axis and reveal the nasty moldy underbelly underneath.
I was thinking about teaching The Pit and the Pendulum. In order to get my kids into the story, I had them list their top ten ways they didn’t want to die. The kids, of course, asked me for the top three ways I DID want to die, and I’d grinned at them with some bravado and said, “A long distance sniper, double-tapped in the head. I don’t want to see it coming.”
I had time and opportunity to change my mind this evening.
On Thursday, one of our teachers out on leave visited work. He was out of it–he’d just been to his radiation treatment and they had to drug him seriously to get him not to freak out when they’d locked him in place and burned his head with nuclear laser beams or whatever–but he seemed to be doing okay. He was dismayed but unsurprised to find that his hair was coming out–but since he’d shaved most of it off before the operation, it was okay.
But he still has hope, and he’s still kicking back, enjoying his time with his wife, and visiting his colleagues, enjoying his children…
There are worse ways to face death, I would imagine.