Issue 108, Fall 1988
It’s been two days since the mugging.
The oval face of the mugger rises higher and bobs in what looks like moonlight. Only it’s raining.
The knife at my throat curves ever so slightly. It is shinier than it could really have been. The voice, more gentle: “Excuse me. Don’t scream. Just give me your pocketbook.” Only the fingers stay true, the touch of a jazz player, shaky, but secure on his turf. In an instant, he has slipped the straps off my shoulder. My handbag hangs from his wrist.
I feel deep, dead-end shame. The way it is when a lover lies to you, and you both know it’s a lie.
It’s the same scene in my head running over and over: I keep passing in front of the red fire hydrant under the super’s window. My paper bag of groceries is soggy, except where I hold it with both arms around it. It smells good. When I get back inside, I’m going to tell my family how to behave if and when I ever cook them dinner again. After that display tonight, they are lucky I decided only to go around the block . . .
“Excuse me. Don’t scream.”
In my mind, I run like the wind and stay above interference. In real life, I am flat-footed, and I follow instructions. “Turn around and walk. Don’t look back.”