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I lost it, of course, the state of wonder I’d experienced, felt it slip through my fingers as I plummeted back to daily life. But even if I couldn’t get it back, I had the memory of it, and I knew, even if I never found it again, that that one glimpse of something … more… had changed my life. I told myself, forlornly, that I should be willing to settle for that; that maybe that was it for me in this lifetime.
I was wrong. It turns out that when that cosmic drumbeat starts up, it can become very, very insistent. It also turns out that the Cosmos has a tendency to present its gifts wrapped in some very, very unnerving packaging. Obviously that’s what it sometimes takes to get our attention. My own package arrived only weeks after that initial experience, slamming into my life hard enough to shake loose every last vestige of my resistance.
The crisis center, on a night so raw the cold scraped at your lungs when you breathed. A teenage girl stumbled in, about nine p.m., scared shitless. Patty and I were on duty, mostly to answer the hot line phones at that time of night. We weren’t actually open for business. But there she was, pounding on the carefully bolted door, battered, freaking out, so we pulled her in and hastily locked the door behind her. It took the two of us twenty minutes just to calm her down, get her to drink something hot, let us dab at the minor cuts, try to override her refusal to call the EMS. Finally, we began to extract her story.
It was brutal. Yolanda was one of those tough cookies, with a gangbanger boyfriend. He’d convinced her to “prove her love” by going through a gang initiation, which for girls was exactly that: gang banging. Gang rape.
And even for this tough girl – and god, were some of those gang girls tough – it had broken her. She freaked and ran, half-dressed, stumbling, crying, all the way to our center. We wouldn’t know what kind of physical damage she’d sustained until we could get the EMS in, but we could already predict the psychological scars. Goddamn. How can people do these things?
It got worse. Even though we were rigorous about maintaining security – for these very reasons – the boyfriend, humiliated in front of his asshole peers no doubt, came after her.
We always had the doors locked, but, as we were still sitting with her, trying to calm her down, we heard a terrible commotion in the outer office. The kid was trying to break the door down. In a black rage, who knew what he was on? Patty and I were both shaking. But she told me to stay with Yolanda, hide in the back room, barricade ourselves and call 911. I pleaded with Patty not to go out there, what was she going to do?
Keep him there and distracted until the police come, she said. I grabbed the phone, and from somewhere strength came through my voice. I gave all the pertinent info, as fast as I could talk. The police didn’t always answer calls very quickly in this neighborhood. I knew I had to convince them it was serous.
I shoved Yolanda into the back storeroom, and roughly whispered at her to keep quiet and out of sight. You never knew with these girls. As bad as things were, I’ve seen them change their minds, go running back to the very jerks they were running away from. I tiptoed back up the hall to see what was happening with Patty.
The door held, but only that reinforced glass separated her from this kid, bandana, tats, the whole thing, slamming his fist on the door from outside, calling Patty every name in the book.
And Patty – I could tell she was scared, too, could see her breath heaving, but her voice was low and… there was a quality to it that I can’t even describe. She was just talking to him, not saying anything particularly significant, just talking, and there was so much … love… coming through. I thought about how I’d always picked that up from her, but I guess part of me thought it was all some kind of act. I guess I was used to all those Boulder hippie types who wore their “enlightenment” like some ego-badge.
But this was… different. I could feel her sincerity, somehow knew that stupid asshole kid could feel it too. She let him pound out his frustration, let his words flow over and past her – we got a lot of language like that, and it’s almost impossible not to feel it lodging in your gut like a knife stab.
And then, somehow, he wasn’t yelling, he was… crying, and by that time, the flashing of cop cars – from both directions – hemmed him in. I couldn’t believe they’d sent not one but 2 units, unheard of with all the budget cuts. They were able to walk right up to him. He didn’t even put up much of a fight as they hauled him off.