I reckon for most people, after you’ve reached a certain age you’ve had something happen that shook your view of the world to the core. (Heck for a lot of people that happened in Sept. of 2001). For me it happened a lot earlier than that, when some random guy decided to break into my house and beat up on me.
But this isn’t about him — it’s about me, and getting shaken (and about Henry – because some guy that I haven’t seen in like 20 years is the symbolic light at the end of the tunnel).
I realized today (as I was driving my car with Mike as a passenger) when Mike overreacted to a soda splashing over and I literally went into TOTAL ADRENALINE OVERLOAD (you know — fight or flight – hyperventilate – hypersensitiveness) something like an acute stress disorder. It’s like I’m not relaxed because I’m just waiting for something to blindside me again.
But also, earlier today, I was thinking of Henry. Henry is NOT a significant person in my life. He wasn’t really a “friend” (I mean seriously can you call someone a “friend” if you don’t even know what their last name is??). Henry worked at the PBS tv station in Urbana. I volunteered there regularly when there were pledge drives (so I’d see Henry a few days a year). Henry sort of reminded me of the Cookie Monster (possibly because he worked at the PBS station), and I’m really not sure if he was straight or gay (he wasn’t a “friend”) but I’m sure that if he WAS gay he was a bear. So basically I’m saying that Henry was a sweet lovable kind of guy. I’m pretty sure you’d like him if you met him.
Then, one random Thursday some random guy decided to beat the crap out of me because he could. I survived (I walked away) and he got to visit one of our state’s lovely charm schools. But for a while after that event I’d freak out any time I saw any black man — INCLUDING sweet old cuddly bear cookie monster Henry. (That really kind of freaked me out too – having a negative reaction to someone that might physically resemble the guy that attacked me was understandable — but HENRY??)
So — why am I writing this down now, 20 some years later.
Because, eventually, things got resettled. Seeing Henry wandering around the streets didn’t bother me — I eventually looked at Henry and saw the sweet cuddly cookie monster guy that he always reminded me of.
So tonight, I’m taking that thought to bed with me — that eventually I won’t look at every other car on the road as a certain threat and I won’t avoid Ogden Avenue because it makes me fear for my safety.
I really need to add this as an aside – all black guys freaked me out for some amount of time (and I don’t know how long that was) but *ANY* guy with a strong smell of liquor on his breath freaked me out for even LONGER. I’m thinking it was a few months before Henry went back to being Henry and YEARS before I could smell someone with a strong smell of liquor and not want to wretch. But maybe that’s just common sense.