The 60 Seconds I Forgot To Tell You About.

I could see the red  paint of the restaurant sign before I even made it down the staircase that the hotel bellman had noted in his directions to me just moments ago. “At the end of the driveway, walk down the little staircase and take the short cut across the alley real quick.  You’ll see the restaurant on the corner. Can’t miss it.  I could throw a rock and hit it from here. A sixty second walk.”

A sixty-second walk that stretched all the way back in my memories. I heard my sandals clack clacking their way down the cement staircase, and then slow suddenly as I reached the bottom. My feet slowed but my heart quickened. The alley was quiet… a bit dark and a little stinky.

Everything in my peripheral vision began to get darker… was God playing with the dimmer?  I strained my eyes toward the red paint of the restaurant sign ahead.  It moved farther and farther away, like an urban desert mirage.

I willed my feet forward.

I waded through a sudden mire of unwanted memories, and chanted silently in my head, “That was then.  This is now.  That was then.  This is now.”

I caught my breath as I shook away the image of my bedroom light being flicked on by a masked figure ten years ago.

My knuckles whitened as I fought back the memory of thick gloves pushing against my mouth.

I begged my feet to keep moving across the alley…

the alley made of molasses…

the alley in the city I once called home.

Scenes from a decade ago swirled in front of me as I worked my way to the restaurant mirage.

Gloves…

violence…

the inside of a pillow case…

my sheets being hauled away by detectives as evidence.

I willed myself to breathe.

I walked.

I struggled to focus on the sound of my sandals.

cah     lack

cah    lack

I felt the hold of the past loosen and I quickened my step.

I jaunted.

I jogged…

the last ten steps into the restaurant.

It was an almost-run…

an almost-run from the shadows tied to my tail…

an almost-run from nothing

to something…

from everything

to something else…

from the assailant that was never caught…

from the feeling of being hunted

to the smiling faces of the long-time friends I agreed to meet…

To the scruffy smiling face of one, and the open arms of another.

To, uncannily enough, the very friends I called a decade ago before I had the sense to call the police.

Then the shadows were gone – a dark surprise I chose to replace with wine, spinach dip, and good conversation.

60 seconds had never felt so long.

***

I took a trip to Chicago for a blogging convention.  Chicago used to be my home.  With the exception of the aforementioned 60 seconds, it was an amazing experience.  I spoke on a panel about storytelling, hugged real people, and did a pretty bang up job at being social and gracious.  I loved it.  I almost wasn’t going to tell you about this.  I changed my mind.

There are people everywhere, just like me…

in the grocery store…

on TV…

serving you at a restaurant…

who, for reasons often unknown,

have very small

yet very great

moments of personal bravery.

Jennifer Kindhouse
Jennifer Kindhouse

Jennifer is an actor, writer, mother, and "other". Yes, she's a feminist. It would be weird if she weren't.