By Rachael Severa
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“Why is she so late?” I whispered. With my sister’s absence, I scanned the street from the front entrance of my high school. Slinging my backpack across my shoulder, I searched for her car. I was indecisive about which direction she’d be coming. After thirty plus minutes ticked by, I decided to walk the two mile stretch home. When I rounded the corner intersection there was only the straight route to my house, and it included a freeway underpass.
I recall the warm breeze and the dusty air that grazed my cheek from passing cars. Confident that my sister would see me walking, I paced myself in the afternoon heat.
Looking straight ahead at the underpass, the site of two younger girls walking towards me captured my attention. Their steadfast pace and the shuffle of their backpacks appeared as if they were running. I continued my pace, but when they reached me, it was clear they were running from something. When the girls passed me, I overheard an anxious voice, “Just keep walking.”
“Is everything Okay?” I shouted.
The girls kept going, but my presence ceased to exist. A few seconds lapsed and as I looked back the girls distance grew further. Turning my head, I was redirected to a man under the freeway pass. He appeared to be working on his car, or something of that sort. When I reached the underpass, his appeal for help came.
“Hey, would you help me with something?”
I wanted to be helpful, so I went along. I clearly noticed his pant belt sitting at the level of my chest. My eyes followed his body upward and the image of a basketball hoop flashed suddenly. The man’s metal laced teeth stood out over his short matted red curls.
His arm moved forward to hand me a wire and he said, “Here. I need you to hold this steady for me.”
As I knelt down from the inside of the passenger door, the man (Hoops, is what stuck in my mind) told me to hold it steady while he tightened something from the outside crevice. A picture of my brother flashed before me, for I had watched him work on cars for years. I didn’t see the exact problem with the door, but my notion came to be that there was nothing to fix. While holding the wire, I looked around the vehicle and noticed the absence of door latches on each side. Viewing the inside crevice door more closely, Hoops disappeared from view. At that moment my urgency to leave escalated and in my attempt, I was thrust forward toward the passenger seat.
“Oomph” I cried. “Get off of me!”
Already standing behind me, Hoops clasped his fingers onto my backpack. His long pale scrawny arms were slightly raised above my shoulders, and I felt the jerky motion as he pushed and pulled me.
“Uh…Uh”, he gasped between short breaths from the struggle.
Hoops fought to get me in the car, and I fought to stay out. My fingers gripped with God’s might to the edge of the metal door frame. It was my backpack that distanced his complete hold over me, enough to help me maintain my grip. I knew that if he gets me in the car— I’m dead.
I was facing the street. Cars were whizzing by, and no one stopped. No one noticed. Still…my hands gripped with God’s might, and the sound of tire traction echoed in my ear. The wind blew my hair with each passing car drowning out Hoops voice with each gust of wind. I peered to my right looking for refuge. At a seconds glance my eye became fixed on the police car that drove with casual pace. With one look, I noticed the officer’s window rolled up while the officer, in his ghostly manner, failed to recognize my presence.
In my desperation, I hurled out a scream, “Help, me!”
My wrenching echo failed to grab the officer’s attention, but put fear in Hoops to let go in fright. The officer kept going, and there were no signs of him slowing or stopping. At once, time went from quick to sudden delay. The heels of my feet landed against the underpass wall and the chill of the cement numbed my fingertips. Hoops’ stood in reproach with his arms hung down and palms open faced. His slouched shoulders and low cast eyes gave it away.
“I’m sorry.” He said in a spontaneous appeal.
My fear prevented any attempt at forgiveness and the flight response came over me. I raced for the police car, and barely heard the honking when I reached the yellow divider. When I looked up, the officer’s right tail light had faded around the corner. It was too late. I stood there in disbelief, and the bursts of passing wind nearly threw me off balance. The honking became louder as the traffic pleaded for me to get out of the way, but my eyes were fixed on the maroon Oldsmobile that Hoops used to escape.
Within seconds, my short breaths went to heavy sighs. Stepping onto the sidewalk perpetuated a replay of the attack from seconds earlier, and the image did little to ease the shock, nor offered explanation. What if Hoops succeeded? I paused for a moment, in my attempt to regain composure despite my lingering fear.
A young couple from a few houses down offered their help. They assisted me in calling my sister, who assumed that I was already home because she ran late. After the attack, I felt it difficult to walk the same way home, so I walked a different route.
The end of my sophomore year came and summer went into full swing. Several times my thoughts would wander back to that day, remembering the fear, Hoops pulling on me and the sound of his voice.
The beginning of my junior year started, and my parents would pick me up from school. Sometimes I would catch myself looking for him, just so I could find out his real identity. But one day, I had to walk home. I realized that I had to put my Faith in God to help me conquer my fears, and that it was strictly His decision that I was still here. I decided to take “the underpass” route home. When I reached the place of the attack, I stood for a moment. The echo of tire traction, my desperate scream, and the grave feeling of Hoops touching me bursts loudly into continuous noise, yet I stood alone against the cement wall. The feeling passed, and I took my first step forward with confidence.
By the end of my junior year, I had walked home several times. I truly felt saved that day. Saved by my will to survive, or the sudden withdraw of Hoops hand, or my decision to run. The exact reason is for God alone, but I do believe in the words of King David in that “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” Psalm 34:7 NIV. I never hated Hoops, but only the desire for him to find peace in his life. I may have feared the unthinkable that day to never survive. I often thought of the ghostly officer as the Angel that didn’t see me, but in some way, God did.
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