Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Under Fire

"Where is a cop when you need one?!" I thought fervently as I raced, harried, through dark, empty streets, shaking and praying that some officer would see my erratic driving and pull me over.  "Should I call 9-1-1?" I wondered... "And say what? 'Hi, my name is Melissa and I think someone tried to shoot me?' It sounded too absurd.  This couldn't be real."  So, I called my mom instead: "Mom, please don't freak out, but I'm coming home early.  I'm okay, but I need you to meet me in the driveway with a flashlight."  Onward I drove, my eyes darting between the road, my rear-view mirror, and the little crackle-edged circle that was, impossibly, on my windshield right in front of me.

One summer during college, I spent some time house-sitting for a family member.  I loved doing it; I loved the responsibility, and at the same time, the freedom it afforded me.  It was peaceful and enjoyable.  The only problem were the cats.  They're awfully adorable kitties, but I'm terribly allergic.  Normally it wasn't a huge problem, but one night all three of them decided to join me in bed, making it nearly impossible to breathe.  I was miserable and needed some medicine and some sleep, so I packed it in for the night, deciding I'd spend the rest of the night at home in my own bed and return after work the next afternoon.  So, at about 3 am, I grabbed my flip-flops and got in my Jeep and started home - about a 20 minute drive.

With the music on the radio and my windows down for some fresh air, I was in a good mood, bopping my head to my favoite song and enjoying the familiar drive.

Then, in an instant, everything changed.

I heard the characteristic "Pow!" At the exact same moment I heard the alien-sounding "Sssssnnnnnnnap!"

Instantly, reflexively, I ducked, but I couldn't keep my head down long, so I poked my head up to keep from crashing the car.  As I peeked over the dash, I saw that I was passing an empty strip-mall parking lot... empty except for the dark-colored sedan that was rolling up a window as I passed.  I shook my head to clear my thoughts and as I refocused on the road, my eyes came to rest on the circle that now adorned the lower left corner of my windshield, right at the edge of the inspection sticker on the inside of the window.

A bullet hole.

A bullet hole?

A bullet hole! 

On my window!

On my window? 


That was all I needed.  I stomped on the gas to get out of there and checked my mirror, only to see the dark car (in my mind, I was sure this was the source of the shot, but I have no idea) pulling into the road.  Was I being targeted?  Was this random?  Did they think I was someone else?  Was it an accident?  Did they miss?  What was going on?  I had no idea.  I could barely form a cohesive thought.  The car that I had seen was now nowhere in sight but I didn't slow down.  I wanted a cop to stop me.  I wanted to be safe.  I wanted to understand what had happened.


Once I was home safely, my mom met me outside, confused.  We looked at the hole, stuck our fingers in it, ran our hands over it, tried to wrap our minds around it.  It was there, but we could not figure out why.  We didn't call the police.  I don't know why, but I think we were just too confused as to what was going on to talk to them.  In the morning, though, we did call an officer out to look at it and figure out what we should do from there.

The officer determined the shot was most likely from a .22.  The officer also looked incredulously at me and told me that the bullet struck the strongest point of the windshield - the lower corners - and that the inspection sticker likely helped to reinforce the glass.  He said that if I had been driving any faster or left the house a second earlier, it would have come through the window and struck my neck.  I just kept asking - out loud and silently, "Why? Why me?" 

Random, it seemed, according to the officer.  Random.  The street I was driving on bisected the west side of our city and formed something of a boundary between turfs for gangs.  The best possibility the police could offer was that it was related to gang activity and I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

"Well," I couldn't help thinking, "I could have been at a MORE wrong place at a MORE wrong time" as I imagined, with a shiver, what the outcome could have been. 

I took my Jeep to a glass repair place the officer recommended - the same one the police department used to repair bullet holes in their fleet - where they filled the hole with resin so it wouldn't splinter and ruin my whole windshield.  But the circle didn't go away completely.  It was there until I sold the car... a haunting reminder that bad things can happen to anyone.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Oh my word!! What a scary moment!


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