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Anonymous Story: I Will Never Forget (2)

Continued…

That’s when I jumped off the swing and started running. My friend followed closely behind. I remember feeling relieved that I could hear her footsteps. But that relief vanished when, moments later, I heard the footsteps and voices of the boys giving chase not far behind her. I’d never before run for my life. And I knew I’d never run faster. The fear was enormous and all-consuming. Fear that they would catch us. And worst of all, fear of what they might do to us if they caught us.

Fortunately, those boys didn’t catch us. We ducked into a convenience shop a few blocks away from the playground. I remember that the lights seemed unusually bright. My friend and I were shaking and panting. I remember that the clerk was bewildered and concerned. She let us use the shop’s landline (this was before most people carried cell phones, least of all high school kids). The last thing I remember is that my friend called her dad and asked him to come pick us up. I know he must have done just that, but I don’t remember that car ride home. I don’t remember telling my parents about the incident, either.

I’m still not sure if I ever have. And the only time I ever remember discussing it with my friend was about 15 years later by text. It was about a year into Trump’s presidency. The presidency had brought this terrible memory of mine to the surface again. I asked her if she remembered it. She had. I told her how sorry I was that I’d said something to make that boy angry. And that I’d started running away from them first, without looking behind me to make sure she was following me. She told me it wasn’t my fault that the boys had reacted to what I’d said with violence.

Nor was it my fault that I had instinctively looked out for my own safety first. I know, in my gut, that she’s right on both accounts. But I still feel partially responsible for the actions of those boys. I never reported what had happened to the police or any other authority. Mostly, I just wanted to forget about that night and move on with my life. But I also feared that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Or that my friend and I would take the blame. I imagined the police officer asking, “What were you girls doing out at night by yourselves? What did you EXPECT would happen?” Even if I had been believed, what then? Would I be able to identify them? It had been dark, after all. And even if I could identify them, would they be punished? I seriously doubted it. I wonder about those boys now. What kind of men have they become? Do they feel guilt and shame for their behavior that night? Or are they now seasoned predators?

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