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Gather Me Up

Another Sunday story, one I luckily didn't understand how to write. So I did my best.

I smell the cigarette smoke first.

I smell the cigarette smoke before the hands on my shoulders, the low voice telling me not to turn around.

Then he grabs the back of my jacket and pulls me toward him and I feel what I think is a gun jamming into my spine. He turns me around while he stays behind me so that I cannot see him and he steers me back toward the building and I know that we are going to go behind it and I know other things too.

“Please,” I whisper kindly.

“Shut up,” he says back, and that’s when I know.

I know that my understanding of kindness isn't going to work for me now. It might work in the grocery store with a disgruntled clerk or with an angry patient in my office, but it won’t work with this.

Neither will my degrees. They won’t get me out of this and my privilege won’t come to my defense either. All of my money in the bank and my faith and the many people all over the world who love me so much won’t get me out of this. Nothing will, because in the end it will just come down to the two of us, hand to hand.

And he will be stronger.

I can fight, but he will be stronger.

I won’t win.

I am a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter.

And there will be nothing I can do.

I never understood this before.

Even thirty seconds ago, I would not have understood that I could be so powerless. I would have thought there to be more strength in my higher education and my suburban upbringing and my 401K. I would have believed that they could get me through anything.

Suddenly though, the power of his hands behind me have stripped it all way.

I was just walking to my car.

I was just walking to my car and going to stop for takeout and be ready with a bottle of wine before my husband got home, but now I am being walked away from all of it and there is a gun to my back. What was real just moments ago is not real now.

And in the end it will come down to the two of us, just the two of us.

And he will be stronger.

He is walking me farther and farther from the building now. We are going toward the woods beyond it and I realize that even if I come out of there alive I will not come out of there intact and that fear grips me so hard I almost cannot breathe.

I cannot reach for my money or my training or my middle class family and I cannot breathe.

But then suddenly a small voice talks to me. It is barely a whisper, but it sounds old and wise and it says that I have to at least try. It honors that I can’t hit and push and pull and resist, but maybe I can run or scream. While we are still at the edge of the woods, at the edge of my whole life, maybe I can run or scream and someone will still hear me, maybe see me from their view at the windows or the parking lot.

While we are at the edge of the woods. At the edge of my whole life.

So I breathe in.

I take a deep and steady breath as he says something that I don’t hear because I am harnessing my courage to move and because gathering so much bravery in so short a time and with so much at stake is deafening. It quiets everything except the beat of my own soul.

And then I do it.

I do it.

With a force I never knew was in me I pivot to my right and I run. Screaming and screaming I run and run and I must run hard and fast and far because he doesn’t catch me and I only know this because suddenly I am through the door of the my building and I have fallen on the floor outside the elevators and I am sobbing as the doors open and people come to their knees around me and begin gathering me up.

They begin gathering me up.

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