Friday, October 22, 2010

Close Encounter

I'm still catching my breath as I start to write this.

Just before 11 o' clock, I leave the Red Derby bar on Quincy and 13th. I went down there for a drink because I spent the day in front of a computer working on the Rushdie piece and a job application and my eyes were going to bug out of their sockets. I had one beer, Pork Slap. Just enough to unwind. I'm staying about a half hour walk away, northeast, and so I walk down Quincy, eastward.

I don't know when they started following me. I know a couple guys ended up not too far behind me at the Georgia Avenue intersection, just before New Hampshire, with a third person crossing to their side. Part of the sidealk is inaccessable because of some building construction, and rather than just walk in the road a short way and get back on the sidewalk I cross over, only to cross right back in order to head left up New Hampshire. I wonder as I do this if I'm making myself an easy target.

From Quincy to Grant Circle it's four blocks, Randolph, Shepherd, Taylor, Upshur. My hosts have told me to move like I have a purpose at night and to not talk on my phone or get distracted. I keep a brisk pace when I walk normally, and so this is easy enough. I pass a girl after the first or second block. I'm pretty sure it's after I pass her that I hear faint footsteps behind me. It could be another expeditious traveler.

Or it could not. Mel Brooks said, Hope for the best, expect the worst. Life's a play, we're unrehearsed.

I keep my pace.

It's just after the last street before the circle, Upshur, and not only have the footfalls remained, but I now see an approaching shadow in the corner of my eye. My hopes diminish, but in the interest of not making a scene I slow to let the person behind me pass.

A black kid in a black jacket walks by and I resume my walk, only for another one to come up by my side. He's most definitely a kid, a teenager. He's short and skinny, with hair buzzed, jacket red and black.

"Hey man, whassup?" he says. No one initiates conversation on the street at 11:15 at night.

"Not much," I answer. Then, "Just had a drink." I regret this instantly.

He puts his hand out. Some cars passed us moments ago, and there's porch and street light all along the sidewalk. Is this really going to happen?

"Give me five, man." (I don't know if he actually said that, since I don't know anyone who actually says 'give me five' anymore, but he stuck out his hand and said something, in any case).

If life's a play, then this is Kabuki. I act my part.

I put my hand in his, and he proceeds to try to put me in a headlock. When I start to resist he pushes me against a car parked next to us. (The first kid maybe does something, maybe doesn't. I don't remember. He's unremarkable. To my left, what was behind me, I see two or three other figures, and they're unremarkable.) The kid punches me in the head, (maybe) tries get into my pocket, but he's scrawny and young and not very strong and I push him off, this doesn't feel real, and I bypass the unremarkable kid and bolt away.

"Hey! Don't run!" The scrawny one yells. I wonder at the psychology of this. I cross the empty lane and the next one and chance a glance back. He's not chasing me.

There's a couple vehicles stopped at the circle and I wonder if I can make some kind of appeal. For what I have no idea. When I come up next to one, though, the driver doesn't seem to notice me. I decide not to belabor the effort, and keep running. Rounding traffic passes me as I traverse the circle. I make goddamn sure to turn off on the right street, and run the rest of the way home, stopping only once, to catch my breath.


  1. Damn!

    Sorry this happened; glad you're okay.

  2. Damn. Some welcome to life in DC. :-/ Glad you're ok.

  3. Oh my word. I'm so glad that you're ok, though I imagine that you're not entirely ok. Such an event would undo me for days - I hope that you're around people you trust and enjoy who can help you laugh and help you feel safe. What an awful way to start out in a new place.

  4. Thanks. I'm doing pretty well. Was a little shaken the next day, but I went out with some alums from my school later that night, and when we were done they let me crash on their couch so that I wouldn't have to risk a repeat.

  5. whoa! good to hear that all is well.

  6. Whoa! That's some adrenaline rush. So glad it didn't end badly.

  7. Damn. Just read this over at TNC's place. So glad you're OK!