I wanna tell you about the time I almost died….

Often I use movie quotes as the titles to my posts. It’s a daunting task because I not only try to relate the quote to something relevant in my post but the movie as well. Double jeopardy in a sense. This title came to me as I was reading my blend’s post about a rather traumatic time in her life. It made me ponder my own mortality for a moment. It’s not something I do often. I don’t lead a very death-defying lifestyle so I tend to not think about it that much. Quite frankly I feel that people who spend so much time fretting about death end up cutting their lives short by doing so. I live day-to-day and enjoy each one as though it were my last.

Her post did however make me reflect back to a time when I was confronted with my own mortality. The problem with that is you never see it coming and it happens when you least expect it. Many moons ago when I was a young lad well into his turbulent teen years, I had the aura of invincibility any youngster believes they have at that age. I hung out late, partied often and did many of the things that parents often warn you not to do. After all that’s the whole fun of being a teen right? Fighting authority and proving yourself to be infallible.

Anyway, after a night of boozing it up with the boys I found myself on the long train ride back home. Far be it for me to crash at my friend’s house, of which we were partying at, oh no no… that would be viewed as a sign of weakness and wussiness in the Cool Guy Kingdom so it was public transportation for me.  2am on the 7 train is an experience in itself. Often there were several people spread out across the car in varying states of a drunken stupor. Some laid down. Others would bob back and forth to the movements of the herky jerky train as though they were unconsciously dancing to an unheard beat. And then there’s me. Cool as a cucumber, listening to my Walkman and watching everyone through squinted Clint Eastwood eyes. I was a big dude… at least bigger than most of the deviants that prowled around in the wee morning hours so I had little to fear. In my mind you had to have pretty big balls to fuck with me – pardon my French.

After about a 45 minute ride home I made my way to my housing complex. My neighborhood was a rough one, but I had lived there all my life. I knew pretty much all the playas, thugs and dealers in the area. Heck I grew up with most of them.  I never really walked around with that sense of paranoia like most outsiders tend to do. Despite my block being a focal point for random gunfire on any given occasion, I had a kind of six sense about when and when not to be lurking around outside.

At least I did up until that night.

As I walked down a particularly shady pathway on the outskirts of my neighborhood rocking out to whatever it was that was playing on my earphones a shadow suddenly appeared out of my blind spot. I was so engrossed in the song I was listening to that I never saw the dude until he was right on me. From out of nowhere this rather haggard looking man jumped in front of me and pointed a silver .357 to my chest. I froze but somehow my ghetto survival instincts kicked in instantly because I managed to turn off my cassette player without too much movement and looked straight down at his feet – never making eye contact with him. He ordered me to give him all my cash and whatever else I had of value. I emptied my wallet very casually as if I was lending him money, never making any sudden movements and certainly never looking up at his face. I even somehow managed to converse with him because as I was handing him the few dollars I had on me I asked him if I could keep my ID because it’s a pain in the neck to get a replacement. He seemed puzzled but not agitated by my request and told me yes surprisingly. I then proceeded to give him my cheap watch and even offered my crappy Walkman. He took the watch but said no to the Walkman. For some bizarre reason I decided I might try to bargain with him. I told him it was a Sony Aiwa with SuperBass and I was positive he could get a good piece of change for it. Again, my nonchalant demeanor must have thrown him off because he said no again, but much less intensely. Kinda like “nahhh… that’s okay”.

After seeing there was not much else he could take from a poor housing project teenager, he sheathed his gun and told me to get out of there. Without hesitation I turned and walked, not ran, away. As I turned my back on him my heart was in my throat. I knew for certain that went far too well for a robbery and he was going to shoot me right in the back. I kept walking without looking back. I was tense as if bracing for an impact. After a couple hundred feet I was at the front door to my building. I reached for my keys and almost couldn’t unlock the door because my hand was trembling so much. When I finally got inside my house I went straight to my room. To say I was sober as a nun by that point would be an understatement. I sat on my bed and a chill ran down from the base of my skull to the tip of my spine that lasted for about a minute.

I didn’t feel invincible anymore. I just felt incredibly lucky.

It took me a long time to ever tell anyone that story to anyone. I think my father was the first one and that came nearly 10 years after it happened. I never reported to the police and never sought revenge or anything. It was a situation I foolishly put myself in due to my own negligence so I just let it be. I was just thankful that I survived.

What did I learn from all of this?

A few things. I learned to never be black on a Saturday night and go walking down a dark path. Nothing ever good happens in the movies so why did I think it’d be any different there? I also learned robbers don’t bargain well. That Walkman lasted me all through high school and 4 years after that. He missed out royally on a great deal. I learned parents are actually right – kids really are stupid. Most of all though I learned that I have awesome Jedi powers and can mindfuck people at will.

Seriously though, not many people have a moment in their life where the end is quite literally in front of you. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on even my worst enemy – the feeling of absolute loss of control.  If I had it to do all over again, strangely enough, I wouldn’t change a thing. As traumatic as it was that night made me a better person.

[I’m playing Guess the Movie I Quoted from now on so guess away without Googling… even though I know you will]


13 responses

  1. I’m glad you survived that terrifying experience, Ian…good for you for keeping your head! I would have been freaking out!


    March 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm

  2. Scary! I’m glad you made it out ok!

    March 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    • Thanks. For someone who boasts about having wicked “New York Awareness” I certainly didn’t have it there.

      March 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm

  3. Wow! It definitely gives you a new perspective on things but I am now grateful for something. I have always told people that I wouldn’t have changed a thing because I strongly believe that it has made me a better person. I feel that way on a lot of levels. The traumatic childhood I experienced did the same thing for me. People have asked me if I’m crazy. I am grateful that I found someone who looked at their experience the same way I did. Thank you for sharing.

    With that said, I’ve learned some things here today! First of all, I’m apparently bilingual. I had no clue that “pretty big balls” and “fuck with me” were French. I’m adding bilingual to my resume 😉 Also, I will try not to be black on a Saturday night but I can’t make any promises. And last, it’s a great opening line that I didn’t have to google because I own the DVD. Is Denzel safe on a Saturday night? lol

    March 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    • Cheers for owning it. I really need to get it on DVD as well. Love that movie. What a lot of people don’t know is that Denzel has an impenetrable aura of cool that mere mortals can’t break through so I think he’s pretty safe wherever he goes.

      March 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm

  4. George

    That is a cool story. Well, cool in the sense that you got away without getting hurt, while essentially drunk. Actually, that part is awesome.

    I learned not to go down streets that are dark, and to stay on main roads until I’m almost home. Some things are also not worth being shot.

    March 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    • No doubt. I’m just grateful I wasn’t foolish enough to start barking about my possessions. I guess that’s the good thing about being a teenager, you really don’t have much so it’s no big loss. 😉

      March 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm

  5. Amy

    “I learned to never be black on a Saturday night” – is it wrong that this made me laugh out loud? I got the “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central. . . ” reference, but I don’t think I know what movie your title comes from. I’ll Google it cause it’s killing me, but I don’t post the answer.

    That’s one hell of a story, too. You were very lucky all you lost was some money and a cheap watch. Other than a couple minor car accidents, I’ve never been through anything as potentially life threatening as this.

    March 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    • Bless you for catching the Don’t be a Menace reference. I adore that I can belt out quotes and at least someone other than me gets it. 😀

      March 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

  6. I remember queensbridge projects very well. I wouldn’t go out there @ night, and I wouldn’t go out there @ day time unless I was bout 5 deep.
    The biggest project n the most dangerous. I rememrber the homemade weapons you used to carry to travel back n forth to school…what don’t break you makes you stronger….. even when a bone is broken, when it heals it’s harder than before. peace

    March 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    • QB was bad but I think Red Hook Projects is far worse. Red Hook was my reason for trating Brooklyn like a quarantine zone. I avoided that burrough like the plague.

      March 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

  7. Great post! I’ve had one of those experiences. I also was not sober. I was traveling abroad and started talking to this guy in a bar and agreed to go back to his place. The area had a lot of high rises but I didn’t see many people out and about. I’m from a big city and for some reason I didn’t clue in. Then he told me someone got stabbed there just a few days ago. We went upstairs and he just played guitar (if I remember correctly it was pretty much the same 2 songs over and over again and he thought he was gonna be a rock star). Oh, and he told me he was a ‘debt collector’. He turned on some music and soon enough the cops came to the door because it was so loud. I was pretty freaked out because, well… we were pretty baked and all the evidence was right there. Eventually he called me a cab and when it arrived it just looked like any normal vehicle. We’d been driving for a couple of minutes before I realized that there was no fare meter. And the guy was very talkative, asking lots of questions. Almost too nice. I look outside and we’re in an industrial area. This is when I panic. Oh fuck, he’s either going to rape and dismember me or rob me and shoot me in the head. I asked him where we were and when he saw I was concerned he started to laugh. Apparently, he said, my hotel was right around the corner but he’d taken the highway so I probably hadn’t seen that route before. Within one minute I was in my hotel safely. I plopped down on my bed, totally sober, and fell asleep.

    March 16, 2011 at 10:56 am

    • Spooky. Nothing like that feeling of having your heart drop into your stomach, eh? Very sobering.

      March 16, 2011 at 11:23 am

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