Campfire Tales – Figures On A Fence

I tried to get away.
I don’t know why, but there were strings around my heart and they were tugging at me.
“Run!” the strings were saying, “Run!”
The traffic light winked and joined in. “It’s none of your business.”
The buildings, the streets, the cars, they were all speaking.
“Run!” they said, “Save yourself.”
And I listened. My bus came and I ran to the door, trying desperately to escape the scene now hidden by the long steel frame. But the driver looking down on me slowly shook his head. Something in his eyes drove me back from the door. He knew. The bus moved on and the scene reappeared. A man had a woman bent over backwards on a chain-link fence and he was choking her. The pedestrians whispered at him to stop. A man lamely punched his horn.
The voices stopped and it was quiet. Nothing moved except the struggling bodies across the street. I could no longer feel the strings.
“Hey, You, get your damn hands off of her!” Someone shouted and it was very loud and close.
The man looked up and he looked at me. Then I trembled, for the shouter had been me.
The man slowly let the woman go and I watched her escape around the corner. He was still looking at me. I said a prayer. He was coming across the street. I waited for what seemed like an eternity and then he was here, staring at me.
“What were you doin’ all that hoopin’ and hollerin’ for, man?” he said, real quiet, like the eye of a hurricane.
I looked into that eye and slowly shook my head. And he kept walking.
“Asshole,” a man next to me growled at the choker and maybe to himself. When I turned to look, he pointed to his eyes.
“Watch your back,” he said. Then he left.
Alone once again, I stood and waited for the next bus. A winter wind swirled up and tugged at my hair. I shivered and pulled my jacket up closer around my neck.
I shivered again, but this time I knew that it wasn’t from the wind.

March 11, 1991

Based on a true occurrence during my first sojourn in Washington DC


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