A chance encounter
|"Hands up, mister."
The tiny voice comes from behind me, but I can tell from the pitch that the frame that emitted it can't be more than eighteen or twenty years old.
"Are you sure you want to go down this road?" I can't but help to think that there must be a better way to do this, any other way to do this. And I wonder if it is not too late to change the course of our interaction.
"I'm not looking for a therapist, just cash. And the last thing I need is another lecture from an all knowing adult who could care less about where I've been."
"I'm sorry, I don't carry much cash, but I would be willing to share a meal with you, my treat."
"Not likely. The only time people like you are nice to people like me is when the cops are on the way, or when you have some need to prove how much better you are than someone like me. I don't buy into that 'saving someone' stuff, either."
I stand there with my back to her, still not able to look at my hostage taker, still unable to look her in the face. "I don't want to save you, but if you are truly in need, I can provide more than just a few measly dollars. After all, what I have isn't going to get you far."
"It doesn't have to get me far, it just has to get me out of here."
"I doubt it will even do that."
I started to lower my hand in order to pull out my wallet for her. "I said don't move!"
I instantly froze.
"I was just going to get my wallet. You can have whatever is in there."
"I'll do it. Just stay still."
I felt her hand rummaging against my thigh. She lifted my wallet, and the few cards I had in there beside it. "What's this stuff? You weren't trying to hold out on me, were you?"
"Take it, and read it if you would like. It's the reason I came out today anyways. Can I at least turn around and face you now?"
"Why would you want to do that?"
"So that we can talk, and you can see that I mean you no harm."
"So you can give a description of me to the police?"
"No. I would just prefer to see your face, and have you face the person who's life you are changing."
Before she had the chance to respond, I started to turn around. I got about half way around when she half heartedly told me to stop, and waved the gun at me, but I managed to come face to face with her anyways.
"I didn't tell you ..."
"I know, I just figured I would take the chance."
The gun came up, inches away from my face. Her arm started shaking, her eyes shifting from my face to the surrounding area. This part of town was always quiet and nearly deserted at night, so there was little chance that anyone would venture down this way.
"Listen, this doesn't have ..."
"No, you listen! I'm the one with the gun, so I'm the one giving the orders."
We stood there, looking at one another, unsure of what to do next. Her face was so young, and I had trouble reconciling the image of the gun with the image of it's holder.
She couldn't have been more than a buck twenty, soaking wet. Her short dark hair hung right to her eyes. A stained tee shirt and a pair of jeans with rips in the knees was broken up by a purple long sleeved shirt wrapped around her waist.
"So what happens now?"
"You weren't supposed to see my face."
"You shouldn't try to take what you need with the end of a gun."
Her shoulders drooped, eyes wide as she tilted her head. "Don't be a smart ass."
"Wasn't trying to be."
"Sure looks it from here."
"You from around here?"
"Got a place to stay?"
"What's with the twenty questions?"
"Just trying to figure out where we go from here."
"And if I said it was none of your business?"
"I'd still be curious."
"Right, like some uptown jerk would ever give a crap about someone like me."
"You never know. I was a street kid once, and know how hard ..."
"Shut up! I'm not looking to reminisce with you, I'm trying to make due in a bad situation!" Her hand was shaking now, her speech became slurred, and her face reddened. "I just ... want you ... to give me ... your money!"
I saw the flash first, and never did hear the sound of the gun going off. My left shoulder started to sting, and I could feel my legs turning to jello. The gun hit the ground, and her hands went up to hide her mouth.
"I didn't mean to, honestly." She caught me as I slumped, and lowered me to the ground. Lights went on in a few of the near by windows, and it would not be long before someone would be searching out their window.
"Your shirt," I managed to get out as I was sliding down her side.
"Your shirt ... wrap it around my shoulder ... tightly.
She did as I asked, and stayed with me, applying pressure to the wound like I asked her to.
I didn't let go of her hand, even when they loaded us into the ambulance. I wasn't sure what would happen next, but I wanted to make sure she was alright for the night, even if it was sleeping in a hospital room visitors chair.
Despite my reassurances to the contrary, she was gone in the morning. I guess it is just too hard for some people to learn how to trust other people.