Saturday, December 29, 2012

A tale of carelessness and grace

‘twas the day before Christmas Eve, and I was almost killed right in front of my home.

As I was crossing the street to walk east on Spruce, a white pickup truck took the left hand turn onto Nickel very fast and the driver evidently was not looking. The truck was headed straight for me. I leaped to get out of the way.

Too fucking close. As the truck continued south, I screamed at the driver to watch where he was going. He went his way, I went mine. On the walk down Spruce, my mind turned to angry reflections.

For seven years, I lived in Los Angeles; I also lived in New York City for four years and spent periods living in Chicago, the Boston area, and Providence. Yet I have never felt less safe than I do here in little Deming, New Mexico.

In four and a half years living here, I’ve already been hit by a pickup truck (on the corner of Spruce and Silver, I wasn’t injured, the guy drove off), chased by dogs (and barked at on almost every city block I have walked), had small firecrackers thrown at me from a passing schoolbus while I was riding my bicycle, been physically threatened by neighbors when I asked them to turn their car stereo down (it was making the windows of our rental house rattle loud enough to wake our son), and I think there are more items for this list that I am simply forgetting. I have heard gunfire while hiking on state park land, and live knowing that people around me carry guns, with or without permits. Some of them are responsible gun owners – my brother in law being one of them. On the other hand, some of them probably aren’t the safest people to be walking around armed. Just saying.

So this was my mind as I walked down Spruce. The circle of complaint opened to the issue of Deming in general: the lack of job opportunity for me here, the history that stranded me here, and my personal desire to live in a larger city with more diversity, better services, more cultural events and activities, and more opportunities for meaningful employment. Perhaps Albuquerque – spent some time there earlier this year and liked it well. Or perhaps this place, perhaps that. Around and around my mind went, checking the situation and seeking better accommodation. As you do.

A few blocks east, I heard a few honks from behind me, and a vehicle pulled to the curb near me. A white pickup truck.

Oh boy.

Certain instincts deployed themselves immediately. I assessed the best route of escape. I let my bag slip from my shoulder onto the ground, freed my hands, assumed a balanced stance. There were some county offices on the other side of Spruce, I could head there if I got around the guy. If need be, I could defend myself in an altercation.

The guy got out of his truck.  Casting Central would love him: shorter than me, stoutly built, completely bald, white stubble on his chin and a few teeth missing. He shot out of his truck and headed toward me.

Except he was apologizing. Profusely. Almost abjectly. “My friend, I am so sorry!” he said, actually bowing his head and putting his palms together. “I wasn’t looking where I was going! I am so sorry! I don’t know what was the matter with me!”

Completely disarmed, I laughed and said, “Close call, but no harm done. Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas!” he said, and got back into his truck.

[Image: the corner where I nearly died]


Ji Hyang said...

Good story.

So glad you are here to tell it :)

Algernon said...

Thanks. Me too.

Kelly said...

Oh, my - that's scary!

I'm glad you're okay, too!

I certainly hope 2013 is a good year for you and your family.