The details of those moments are both vivid and unattainable
. I remember parking my car, shuffling the three recently aquired grocery bags, the shoulder bag and the notebook as I stood next to the open door. I remember picking up the half gallon of skim and kicking the door shut
just before heading around my car.
Through the bushes surrounding the parking lot seperating me from my apartment I could see the huge obstacle that is the landscaper's vehicle. As I skirted it's bulky mass I looked toward the middle-aged white guy on the standing mower and then toward the green truck parked at the end of the lot in a space that is not a space at all. I don't know if I registered it was green at the time, but I know it was green now.
I'm sure, although I do not know, that I watched the steps carfully as I descended the walkway into my building, and I am equally sure that I glanced at least once into the empty greenery just outside the building. When arms wrapped around me and warmth spread across my back it didn't fully register. Not until the second time he barked, "Where's the money, bitch?"
My hands must have gripped the bags tighter because I have no recollection of having let them go, yet I can see the broken jar and the salsa staining the carpet right now. I remember looking at the jumble of groceries, the wildly flung junkmail that was once in a neat stack above the mailboxes, and thinking what a crazy struggle I must have made. But I don't remember it.
Of my attacker I know three things for sure: he was black, he was young and he was wearing a black hoodie. I didn't feel threatened by this stranger with his arms around me, I wasn't afraid of what little of his smooth face I could see. It never occured to me he might have a weapon, although it turns out I gave him all the weapons he needed wrapped in bright blue plastic.
I remember him uttering the words a third time and me trying to turn towards him. I remember bending over a little and trying to pull away. I'm sure I pulled my fisted hands full of bags up to my chest. I remember biting him. Hard. Biting him and not letting go. Biting him and thinking, if I hurt him he'll go away. But he didn't. Instead he turned and said, "oh shit! She's biting me! She won't let go!" I saw his torso turn away from me, his left arm stretch out toward the walkway, and then I saw a second pair of legs coming toward me. A light grey hoodie and jeans. That's all I know about the second attacker.
At some point I had begun screaming for help. I think it was after I was down on the ground, which must have been shortly after he pulled his appendage out of my mouth and just before his friend approached. I remember thinking, you have to scream now. So I did. Maybe it was fear finally surfacing with the knowledge that there were two of them.
One of them, the first one I think, was struggling to pull the purse off my shoulder but my arms were clenched to my side and as far as I know my hands were still death gripping on the plastic bags. The back of my head was hit with something, at the time I thought it was a fist maybe. It was not the stuff of stories, I saw no stars or birdies, and really it didn't hurt much at all. It was a familiar sensation, but how many people have had their head smashed against playground equipment as a child as a point of reference when it comes to pain scales? My purse let loose suddenly and slipped from my shoulder and then they were off. I looked up from my sprawled position and saw both my DSLR and my bright pink wallet in the mud along the walk. I glanced at my robbers and saw them pause then turn back.
I saw one look at the wallet and then at me. I'm confident I saw his face, yet I can't recall a single detail. Nothing. In the next instance I was scuffling across the concrete and reaching for my wallet, and so was he. I sat up, stuffed the wallet between my indian-style legs and huddled over it. I'm pretty sure I heard one say "I don't believe this" as they again pushed and shoved to try to get my goods. I looked up and screamed, "it's not worth it!" with my hands shoved between my legs.
They stopped then. They were standing in front of me staring. And then they were gone. My eyes turned to the sidewalk again and I saw the camera. With a reflex I still don't fully understand I was up on my feet, snatching the camera and thinking about capturing an image of my attackers. But they were already gone and my neighbors were finally coming to my aid. Someone called the cops. Neighbors I haven't even met brought me paper towels for my bleeding head, which hadn't fully registered until that moment, and gathered my forgotten glasses from the ground. They even tried to look up my husband's work number since the one thing the robbers did make off with was my cell phone.
I shook violently as I answered everyone's questions with stutters, all the while having the oddest thoughts. I wish I could photograph this. Chris is going to be so angry I didn't just let go. At least they didn't get my wallet! I cradled the camera in my hands with a death grip, protecting something that had already been made broken and unusable.
Of the EMT's, cops and detectives I remember only slightly more than my attackers. I am embarressed now at how chatty I was. I managed to mention the bit of thumb Chris once chopped off, that my father is retired Air Force, that I'm a photojournalism student, that we've only lived here for just over two years and that I realized now they had used the salsa jar to hit me in the head and perhaps there would be fingerprints upon it. I rambled.
I watch a lot of crime solving programming, that's just the sort of person I am, so I know that in Hollywood the investigators want you to fight back in an attack. They want you to scratch with your nails, bite down and leave a mark, grab something that will lead them to the attacker. In the real world, though, I suspect cops hate that message. I suspect they want you to do what my husband has always told me to do, to just hand over whatever they want and stay safe. I didn't do either really.
As I was waiting to get staples for the gaping slit in my head, the female detective working my case said I was the only person to fight back today. I was their fourth victim in a series of crimes against solitary women with bags in hand. The detective's partner smiled and sported one of those eye glints I thought was Hollywood glamour as he looked at her and said, "I like that."
"I hope our offspring have your bravery." Chris said to me in the ER with pink tinged eyes taking in my disheveled and blood crusted head and salsa spattered shirt.
I just hope they never need it.
writing as therapy