Trigger

Whether it was bad aim, lack of ammunition, or a change of heart, I’ll never know why he didn’t shoot us.  At the end of the day, that part doesn’t matter.

Dressed in blue from his Tigers’ hat to his Nikes, he was meandering sloppily down Adams Street surrounded by friends.  Our Scion drove up behind them and stopped at the red light, just as they entered the crosswalk. They abruptly looked in our direction.

“Get the f*ck out of my D!” one of them shouted.

They appeared to be looking for something to occupy their time.  They were looking to cause some trouble.

“My, God.  Danielle, he’s got a gun,” my husband said.

“I said get the f*ck out of my city!”

The light turned green, and he waited for them to finish crossing before flooring the gas.  He was acting only on instinct.  My heart quickened as the car accelerated, thrusting my shoulders into my seat.  Our small hatchback was approaching them, and we had nowhere to turn.  We were stuck.  Either stay there like sitting ducks, or get past them immediately.

I grabbed my husband’s arm, digging my nails into his bicep.  With my other hand, I fidgeted with the seatbelt.  I twisted the thick gray fabric, wishing it were made of something stronger.  Before my husband pushed my head down below the window, I managed to look the young man straight in his eyes.

His brows were distorted and nostrils flared.  The anguish in his stare made my breath stick to the insides of my throat.  His gun, small and silver, was pointed right at our faces.

Detroit hasn’t been the same since the riots of 1967, and the white flight that followed.  It was much more than a difficult time in Detroit.  It was a time for significant downhill change for the city, filled with violence and civil disobedience.  White residents fled by the thousands to suburbs.  When they left, they took prosperity, and left a lasting footprint of decay that can still be seen today.  There is a racial divide so deep that time hasn’t been able to fully repair it.  Transplants (like myself) don’t get it at first, but the people born and raised there have boiled blood still coursing through their veins.

Can you honestly blame them?

As I looked down the barrel of his gun, I felt strangely numb.  People say your life flashes before your eyes in situations like that, but I felt nothing.  Time stopped, and I sat there, frozen, waiting for him to end our lives with a bullet.

I did nothing wrong, but the frustration in his dilated pupils told me I was good enough to be his scapegoat. I could be the revenge for his city, and for the years of poverty it had endured when people like me (white and blissfully ignorant) abandoned Detroit in its’ darkest hour.  In that millisecond, my future was in his hands.

Only a child, fifteen at most, he was a product of the pain his family, and city, had endured.  It was the change he thought he needed, but in that moment he didn’t pull the trigger.

Photo courtesy of Jordan Wiseman on Stocksnap.io

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15 thoughts on “Trigger

  1. I am reminded of something a black pastor told me once when I was detailing all that was wrong with his neighborhood: “There are people living good lives here.” The same is true in Detroit. There are punks, plenty of them, unfortunately, but the foundation of the city is the same as it has always been – decent people trying to get by.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow…such an amazing piece Danielle! The first sentence really hooked me and the suspense and tension was great till the end. Added to that, I loved your descriptions of people and the place. Awesome work!

    Like

  3. This is beautifully written and conveys your fear and also your effort to empathize. One of the challenges we have as writers and human beings is knowing when the timing is right to turn the spotlight on our own experiences, particularly in light of contemporary–very recent– tragedies against black lives. It is a delicate balance because we want to say, “I know what you’re going through,” but the reality is, we don’t.

    Liked by 2 people

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