The Effect Of Strangers
So, I've been opening up to you guys. At first it felt dumb, a little crazy even. I'm not sure I want everyone to know these details about my life. I've spent so many years trying to push them away so I could progress, when it seems that to truly move forward I would need to sort through them, talk about them more, and then I could learn what ever message the world was sending me. I think the first thing I've learned is I'm resilient, and I should be more proud of myself for that.
There are so many times in life that a person you have never met, can altar everything. Off the top of my head I can think of more than a few times strangers have changed my life for the positive, but since I'm focusing on writing about past trauma I'm going to be talking about the more hurtful situations. Of course allowing yourself to see the light in anything can also eventually lead those moments to positive change, but that's not how they felt for a very long time.
When I was fourteen we lived in a little apartment building right by the tracks on the corner of Chicago and Kentucky st. We had just moved there from our old apartment two blocks away. As young girls we were all tomboys and pretty tough, we did most of our moving on foot, carrying furniture the two blocks to the new place. My mother worked nights as a custodian and we were latch key kids. This was no big deal though because I had been babysitting for a while, and we were pretty mature for our age. We got to know everyone that lived in our building, and everyone was a tight knit community. Don't get me wrong there was drama, but at the end of the day we all cared about each other and never hesitated to lend a hand to one another.
Not long after we first moved in I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and my two younger sisters, my mom was at work. We were all in the living room playing with Barbies. Yes I was fourteen years old creating Barbie deluxe homes with household items. I have no shame. All of a sudden we hear a strange rattling at our door. We all stop and get quiet, it get's louder. I get up and look out of the peep hole and see two young guys messing with my door. At first I thought it was one of the neighbors because it was hard to see their faces, then I realize, they are trying to break in our apartment. I look at my friend and we formulate a plan. She grabs the baseball bat, I grab a broom, and my sisters grab a mop and some other nearby cleaning supply item. We stand inside the door two on each side, ready.
It's hard to imagine after me telling you I was playing Barbie's but this was my way too much eye liner, I'm so goth I'm dead stage. I looked quite intimidating when I was angry. When the door was finally opened and these guys thought they scored, there we were. I went into psycho eye, demon voice mode and they turned around to run. I shoved the broom stick up the guys butt and thrust him down the stairs. He ran, I chased him. I ran over the tracks yelling, "Don't ever come back!" In the deepest voice I could muster.
When I got back we were all shook up, but everyone was laughing. It was satirical. I guess I expected life was going to be easier after my mom finally got us away from Phillip. At that moment I realized I had to be the man of the house. I had to pretend I was stronger than I was.
I imagine most fourteen year old girls would be afraid to be alone after getting broken into, but instead I think it made me feel like I could handle anything. I started walking the streets at all hours of the night doing whatever I wanted. Girls hit me, even jumped me once (if you want to call it that) but I never hit them back. I was afraid I'd hurt them badly and end up in jail. I did fight for necessity with men and teenage guys though. It's as if nothing but walking down the street with a vagina made you an instant target. I felt safe in the chaos though, because the longer I lived in my neighborhood the more people I knew. We protected each other, we had a community on the west side.
That's how we ended up going to the birthday party of one of our other neighbors. My sister was best friends with her, and I had babysat her and her siblings many times. This day we went to the Holiday Inn and had a pool party! I remember how excited she was, how much work her mom put into making it an awesome party. I remember having so much fun. I helped a lot, and because I was older I was teaching the younger kids how to swim. I was swimming around with this little boy and he was very friendly. He wanted to be doing whatever I and the older kids were doing. He saw me swimming from the inside to the outside of the pool, and I think he wanted to do it too.
After swimming a while I got out of the pool to see what was going on in the room. I had to use the bathroom, and more importantly see if there were any snacks and listen in on adult conversation. I was a teenager, considered a kid, but still wanted to be where the adults were.
Next thing you know everything is happening so fast, people are screaming and running, and the little boy I was just playing with not so long ago was now being pulled out of the swimming pool. My sister is crying, she was swimming when she found him. He was trying to mimic the older kids and he must've hit his head really hard when trying to go from the inside pool to the outside one. He was knocked unconscious and no one knew how long he was like that. They pulled him to the side and did CPR as we all stood around him and cried and hoped for a miracle. Water came out of his mouth in a large amount and we thought that meant he was going to wake up, like in the movies. He didn't though, they tried and tried. Minutes stretched out like hours while simultaneously moving quickly. He swallowed too much water, we lost him that day.
I beat myself for a long time about it, because if I'd have stayed out there maybe I could've kept him occupied and it wouldn't have happened. Maybe I would've noticed sooner and he'd have had a better chance. I did that to myself for a long time, but we can't predict life. Maybe me being there would've had no effect and I would beat myself up for that. It was very hard on my sister as well. She would not allow anyone to swim at Holiday Inn. She was very serious about it. I could understand that and we all complied. It was difficult. I felt so bad for the birthday girl, I really hope every birthday is not a sad reminder of the day she lost her cousin. We all attended the funeral together the following week. I barely knew the boy but I will never forget him. My heart hurts all these years later thinking about it.
Strangers have the ability to change your life, and sometimes they can change it so completely for no reason at all. It was a Friday night, I was twenty one years old and just getting off work from my serving job at Bakers Square. I had worked the day shift at Chili's first, so I was exhausted, but it was Friday and I'd made decent tips. My tip outs from the previous Chili's expo shift were in my purse, and my serving tips were in my pocket, I hadn't had a chance to really sort anything. The day was long, and I was out of smokes.
I pulled into Lucky Stop and parked my Old trusty Buick. I chatted with the cashier a bit, got my cigarettes and some silly novelty items and headed outside. While walking to my car a guy was walking up in a hoodie. I smiled and he did the head nod, but I got a weird twinge in my gut that said remember his face. I got in my car, but it was old and had no interior lights, so I left my door open as I got situated. As I hear the click of my belt buckle, my neck is instantly squeezed tight by an arm and my head is pushed into the crick of a mans shoulder. I could smell his cologne.
"Give me all your money!" My mind hesitates, where is all my badassness now!?! This is not real, this is Michigan City. People know me here, this does not happen in well lit places. All of these thoughts quickly run through my head as I stammer,
"Is this a joke?" Is this one of my coworkers playing a prank on me? He hits me in the face, pointedly not sideways pimp slapping like you see in the movies. He jabs the gun in my face pushing it just below my eye socket. My face is bleeding, I can't see it but I feel the stickiness trickling down my face.
"No, this is not a joke, give me your fucking money!"
"I, I, I don't have any money" I have worked too hard, my money is not even worth the cost of the bullet.
"Give me your purse, Bitch!" and again he hit's my face. I just want it to stop so I grab my purse and throw it at him. My life is in that bag. My social security card, my birth certificate card, my ID with my current address. He takes the bag and runs to the corner house, where his two friends were waiting for him. They take off and at that moment I finally get guts,
"You better fucking run!" Then I hysterically cry and throw up all in one instant. Again looking back this is somewhat hilarious in a very satirical way. Then I go into the gas station tell the attendant to call 911, and I throw up again.
When the police show up I am in full panic attack mode. I'm having a hard time breathing, I'm throwing up, Crying, and I'm constantly looking all around me to make sure they aren't coming back. Rationally I realize that would be pretty dumb of them to do, but I was very irrational at this moment. My cell phone had been in my purse so I wasn't able to contact anyone else yet. After I filed the report I went home and cried myself to sleep.
That day changed me for a long time. Little things like sudden movements in the corner of my eye, going out at dark, taking out the garbage, started to bother me. I was worried that they'd kept my ID, knew my address and were going to come back. I who was once a night person, started changing and not going out at night except to come straight home from work. I joked a lot about how they only got $26 and a broken cell phone, but they took so much more than that.
It took me a long time to feel safe again, and still I'm more cautious of my surroundings. I never leave my car door open while I'm in my vehicle. I listen when my gut warns me about someone.
Everyday you have the chance to change the course of your life, or anyone else that you come in contact with. Strangers have the chance to change the course of your life! This has left me with a few lessons.
1. Never treat someone bad who is down on their luck, you literally have no idea what has happened in their life. Learn to love and have compassion for people in every social class, religion, race, sexual preference, age, it doesn't matter love and learn from everyone you meet.
2. Your life can change at any instant. The rug can be pulled out from under you, or you can have a great thing happen and your life will never be the same. There are many moments you will have no control over, but the moments you can control deserve as much strength and optimism as you can give them.
3. What may only affect you a little, can affect someone else a lot. Be the inspiration and the motivation when you can.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about me. As I open up about these things there are still such bigger, harder parts of life I'm still afraid to share. I'm glad to have this outlet to finally open these wounds wide and clean them out. It's time to heal.
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