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The Big White Car

I was looking for something to do. I had called several friends from my touchtone Princess phone and either they weren’t home or weren’t able to come over. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. The weather was warm. My parents were watching football. “I’m going for a bike ride.” I told them. I grew up in the kind of town that mostly shut down on Sunday. Stores were closed and the streets were quiet. I had no plan. I just hopped on my yellow Schwinn 10-speed and started riding. I was  wearing cut-off jeans, a t-shirt, and dirty white Keds with no socks. We didn’t wear helmets back then. We just got on our bikes and rode. I was fourteen.

I was riding on West 18th Street, one of the main roads in town, when a big white car pulled up alongside me and the man inside began yelling at me from the open passenger side window. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he was angry. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. We were approaching a residential cross street so I decided to turn into it. Did he just try to cut me off? My heart was pounding. He drove on and came to a stop on D Street, and then he turned right. The right turn I took was taking me away from the direction of home so I decided to get back on to West 18th. I approached the stop sign and looked to the right in the direction he went and I saw him making a U-turn. So I turned left.

I grew up in this neighborhood. We had moved from it the year before, but I had walked these streets alone countless times as a little girl. I would get a quarter from my dad to go buy candy at the Shortstop Market. It was to this market that I decided to go to when I made that left turn. It was just on the next block. I would find someone in the store to help me because all of a sudden, the streets of this familiar landscape became a ghost town. There was nobody in their yards and no other moving cars in sight. It was just me on my bike and that big white car heading back in my direction.

I jumped the curb as I realized the parking lot was deserted. The market was closed. In a split second I decided to get onto West 19th Street in the opposite direction of home because this street lead directly into a shopping center that had a Lucky grocery store. It crossed my mind that they might be closed too, but I had to find people. I took off from the parking lot of the market and as I peddled as fast as I could I heard the unmistakable sound of a car accelerating behind me. I was riding on the wrong side of the road because once I entered the shopping center, the entrance to the store was on my left. And there he was. Right next to me on my right. This time I heard him yell, “You fucking little bitch better stop your bike before I run you over!”

I rode my bike right into the store. At first I couldn’t speak, but the horror must have registered on my face. A teenaged boy and a woman working as a checker both ran to me at the same time. I managed to give enough information for the boy to run outside and give chase. He saw the car and ran after it but was unable to get a license plate number. Another woman came and took me upstairs to an office and called the police and my parents. As I sat waiting and crying in that office I thought of my dad saying, “Those shorts are too short,” as I walked out of the house.

My dad rode my bike home. I never wanted to ride it again.

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