Everyone / Eventually: Seven Circles of Hell in the East Bay (Circle Six)
The following is part six in a seven-part series about two disastrous years in the author’s life. We post a new installment every Monday. In this chapter, the author gets mugged.
Circle One | Circle Two | Circle Three | Circles Four and Five
I move out of my aunt’s house, to Oakland. My neighborhood is pretty secluded, near a hospital complex and a bunch of car dealerships. One night, Amanda and I are out late seeing friends and catch the last BART home from the Mission. Things are looking up at work for both of us, and at one point on the thirty-minute walk from MacArthur station, Amanda actually says, “I have a feeling things are going to change for the better soon.” We continue walking and talking boisterously, past the bridge, the razor-wire fence, the camper clearly inhabited by a crazy person, as evidenced by the amount of cat litter visible through its window. All that cool stuff that makes my neighborhood—and by extension, me—so charming and authentic. When I walk to my house late at night now, I hold my keys between my fingers, which is actually total bullshit if you think about it. Like anybody’s ever Wolverined somebody’s head off with the key to their aunt’s house, the key to their minivan, and a keychain that says, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute.”
Less than half a block from my house, I notice a commotion, as if the two men in black hoodies who have just appeared behind us were scuffling amongst themselves. That’s my first thought. But they’re running toward us, and so my next thought is, I know what this is. Much like getting hit by that car, this happens very fast, but there’s a lot to process while it’s happening. One man points a revolver at me, and the other man starts wordlessly going through Amanda’s and my pockets. Which is not gentlemanly. There are ways to rob and intimidate people, and some ways are more polite than others. I guess we can’t all be Omar.
The pocket-digging-guy takes my phone but misses Amanda’s. I hand over my wallet and, voice quavering, say, “All right, man. All right, man.” The guy with the gun hits me, and an actual blinding white light takes over my field of vision for an instant. They run off. It doesn’t occur to me until later that given the guy’s stance and the size of my bruise, he must have hit me with the gun. I also don’t realize until the next day that my glasses had fallen off and that I’ve left them on the sidewalk before walking inside, calling the cops, looking into the mirror. I have a black eye in the same place as when that car hit me.
When word of my mugging spreads to Dante at the O.K. Corral, he sends me a Facebook message asking if there’s anything he can do.
In my neighborhood, there is a church with a big green metal crucifix out front and a plaque that reads, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” There’s also a bookstore with a mural that depicts a bookshelf– “FREE THE LAND. MY SOUL TO KEEP. MISEDUCATION OF THE NEGRO. ACTS OF FAITH. THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD”—and Malcolm X holding a machine gun.
Why is Malcolm X, who famously renounced violence as a means of overthrowing white oppression, (“I was a zombie then,” he said of his time in the Nation of Islam,) holding a machine gun? I’m not being rhetorical, I’m asking because I honestly don’t know.
I think about moving every day. Getting mugged was the moment in the horror movie where a deep, disembodied voice intones, “GET OUT” at you while you’re making cookies, after the chairs start rearranging themselves, after dishes and cups fly out of the cupboard and smash themselves, after your husband doesn’t believe you, just squints in his flannel and says, “We’re worried about you, honey,” after your cat is crucified and no one was home to do it and the doors were locked, after your son starts speaking Aramaic—but before the whole house implodes, phantom voices shrieking, white specters of light flying out, into the indigenous burial ground on which it was built. God is in his holy temple.
The story ends here.
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