Stand Your Ground

Huey Scribe (1st place. Fiction. Fall 2012 Writing Contest)
 
It all started with a crash. Our horns blaring as the metal frames of our cars kissed, and then screechingly intertwining into a monstrous, loathsome embrace.
 
Everything ached and the hammer banging in my skull was compounded by my horn still shrieking into the cold December air.
 
I remember planning to jump out of my car and beat the raving shit out of whoever the hell had hit me. But when I opened my door, I had to really force it open, and I found that my legs were unsteady and
unsure of themselves, too. Instead, I shakily staggered out of my car to assess the damage.

Jessie Vittoria, Bridge to Construction

Jessie Vittoria, Bridge to Construction


 
It was carnage. The two vehicles were barely discernible from one another at point of impact. Both were completely destroyed. If I could tell you how much I would give for that to have been the end of the story. If I could convey, somehow, how much I wish I could take it all back, for everything to have ended there—
 
 
 
The day after the wreck… A detective showed up at my parents’ to ask me questions. I answered everything the best I could and as honestly as I remembered everything. They told us that they would not be making an arrest, but suggested that it wasn’t a bad idea to contact a lawyer, before reminding us gently, that they’d be in touch.
 
Within a week, the national news was all over the story. There were demonstrations and peaceful protests around the country in the tens of thousands against me. Declaiming my racist past and statements. Political pundits and people I’d never even heard of were all across the media spectrum dissecting my life and the facts of the case.
 
My mind was reeling. I could barely eat, sleep wasn’t a viable option, and I felt a tearing in my soul. Really, as if a dagger was leisurely and forcefully hacking at my spirit. My heart too ached a bit. It was so much of closing my eyes and seeing his face. Even that may have been a blessing, because by then he was living in my every waking thought. Breathing in my ear, screaming in my head, mocking me, baiting me—
 
On TV they showed pictures of him every day, with his family, his girlfriend and daughter, playing football in high school, graduating, his college years.
 
Every swallow I took encountered a dry lump in my throat. Every blink was only one away from a shed tear.
 
How do you say you’re sorry…? When you’re not? How do you ask for forgiveness, when you aren’t sure you should be forgiven?  What if… What if Rashad… had killed me?
 
 
 
The media had all but convicted me, save for a few conservative pundits who were championing my actions as if I were John Wayne reborn. But I’ve never been political. I even failed government the
first time I took it. Even still, Al Sharpton had moved his MSNBC show to my city to protest the fact that I still hadn’t been arrested, and with him the rest of the national media soon followed, bringing with them ready made mobs, marching through our city demanding my arrest.
 
“If the facts had been reversed and the victim, Rashad Elliot, had been a ‘Richard Elliott’ and Dillon Ryan had been ‘Delonte Ryan,’ then guess what? That ‘Delonte Ryan’ would be in jail!” one impassioned
Black activist sermonized on a news panel.
 
“Let me get this straight for the viewers at home, Reverend. Now, are you saying that you believe that if Dillon Ryan had been black, and Rashad Elliott had been white, that Dillon Ryan would have been
arrested?” the host asked.
 
“Ms. Meadows, that is exactly what I’m saying! And everyone in America knows it!”
Jennifer Battaglia, Grave Wanderer

Jennifer Battaglia, Grave Wanderer


 
They couldn’t have known that I felt guiltier than even they intended me to feel. They couldn’t have known that while Rashad was just an idea for them, a noble cause to uphold, he was a tangible person
living alongside me, pulling me deeper into insanity and right into the… ground… with him.
 
 
 
My parents didn’t understand me.
 
“Dillon, it’s going to be okay,” my mom would tell me while squeezing my hands tightly and patting my leg. “You were only defending yourself. The police know that, we all know that, and everything is
gonna be okay, hon. Okay?”
 
She said that in spite of the fact that my parents had had to leave their home because of increasingly violent threats, and that by then, I, too, was officially in hiding.
 
“I don’t know why the hell you’re so depressed, son!” Dad exclaimed before they left me, off to some indistinct relative’s, sheltering them and my younger sister Katie through the crisis. “It was either your life— or his! Simple as that!”
 
My family loves me, so of course they take my side. But in my mind I wish they wouldn’t. Me or him. That’s all it comes down to, right? But who is to say that my life was more important than his? Who’s to say that I matter more than he mattered?  Who’s to say?
 
 
 
The 911 tapes were released the other day. I guess he must’ve been out after the crash longer than I remember. But I can’t really be sure of anything anymore.
 
The tapes were all over every newscast, you could hear his voice describing the location of the accident and his physical condition and a report of the wreck. He sounds calm, sounds…
 
In contrast my tapes that were released make me sound frantic, desperate, afraid…
 
“Hello?! Hello? Yes! Yes—my name is Dillon Ryan! There’s been an accident…” I trail off sobbing audibly on the tape.
 
“The other driver—
 
“The other driver he’s—
 
“He’s been— he’s shot.” You can hear my breath on the line. Breathing in…. And out…..
 
And then the dispatcher’s gasp as it settles in on her. “Oh my— is he alive?”
 
“Yes! I think so… I think so…” I’m pleading.
 
One of the major networks was caught adding racial slurs into one of their airings of the tape. They promised heads would roll in their newsroom, but it didn’t matter since the public perception of me being a young racist ideologue had already taken root.
 
Right after the story became a national controversy someone found a sign-in sheet from my freshman year where I went to this right-wing political group and presented it as evidence that I was a racist.
I only went to that meeting because my roommate and I had run out of money that week and he knew a guy who knew a guy who belonged to the organization, and knew we could score the leftovers from the meeting. We went, schmoozed for food, and never thought about it again.
 
 
 
Alley and I’ve been together for a little over a year. She’s usually pretty quiet, laidback and reserved. But since everything’s happened, she’s been so energetic and active, and angry. She’s been my biggest cheerleader, letting me hide out at her place and keeping contact with my family and lawyer. We learned the other day that there was a possibility the police would take me back into custody.
 
She looked at me crying, “Dillon, you can’t just let them take you to jail! He fucking attacked you! He hit your car!”
Jessie Vittoria, On a Wire

Jessie Vittoria, On a Wire


 
I snapped. Maybe it was something about her tears or her pain. After all, what right did she or any of them have to pain, to agony? Wasn’t Rashad dead? Wasn’t his family hurting? Wasn’t I walking with his soul draped over mine, suffocating mine, eating me from within?
 
“I took HIS life, Alley!” I screamed.
 
She looked taken aback. “But you had to, right, Dillon?” she asked so softly, I wasn’t sure she’d even spoken.
 
“Is it that simple?”
 
She swallowed. “It is.”
 
“Look, it’s like your lawyer was saying,” she continued, “you have a solid case, Dillon. He attacked you, he hit your car. You were in fear for your life. You were defending yourself, baby. You had a right to be where you were. You are a student at the university. And it’s like Mr. Cohen was
saying, according to the Self Defense Act, you were well within your rights. It’s going to be okay,” she said hugging me and rubbing my back. “But you’re going to have to fight for yourself Dillon. You can’t give up on yourself…”
 
But my mind was somewhere else, a million lightyears away. So, I nodded my head and we kissed.
 
The facts are on my side.
 
The fact that his girlfriend was a student at the university, and that he had only been bringing her coffee for a late-night study session (a fact that the media establishment practically fawned over) would be irrelevant in court, my lawyer assured me. I had a right to be there, I was in fear for my life, I would be acquitted—if any charges were even pressed.
 
I knew Alley was right. I knew the words I needed to say to save my life, to pull me from the abyss, to free me from Rashad. So, I spoke them aloud, “I thought he would kill me.”
 
 
 
“Dillon Ryan is a great student, a respected athlete, a volunteer with Boy Scouts of America and a former Eagle Scout. And on that fateful night, he was also a victim,” Mr. Cohen said in a press release.
 
 
 
A victim. Except that I’m not.
 
He walked around the other side of the wreck. He’d been kneeling down inspecting his rims.
 
“Man, what the fuck? Were you even looking?” he yelled walking toward me.
 
“Was I looking? What planet are you on, guy? You fucking hit me, jerk!” I spat.
 
“Say you need to watch how you handle me, bro, ‘cuz you fuckin’ with the wrong one!” he said walking closer.
 
Not backing down, I stepped closer, “No I, know exactly who I’m talking to and you better have some fucking insurance, man.”
 
He sized me up and then laughed in my face. He was at least half a foot taller than me.
 
He laughed again as he turned and began walking back towards his car. “You know what? I’m just gonna let the law handle your punk ass when they get here, bro. ‘Cuz whoopin’ your ass ain’t even worth the couple days in jail, bitch.”
 
I was incensed. So I pushed him as he was walking away.
 
Big mistake. He was expecting it. He spun around and pushed me back with such force that I flew back a couple of feet. Undeterred, I ran back up and we began exchanging blows.
 
Somehow I managed to get him on the ground, but he still had the upper hand. And forced me to the ground where he banged my head a couple of times before I pushed him off and landed a blow to his nose in the process. He stumbled back, feeling for the blood that was sure to come. I could feel my bruises, but I took joy in the fact that I could see his.
 
“Punk ass bitch!” he yelled, wiping away the blood as I slowly pulled myself up. He spun around finding his car door somewhere in the wreckage and leaning in like he was looking for something.
 
I ran to my door, pulled it open, snatched my glove compartment open and withdrew what was inside. I turned towards him just as he was turning around.
 
“Yeah, I got something for your ass,” he was saying.
 
I fired three times straight to the chest as adrenaline ran through my veins, and my arms trembled.
 
His insurance papers fluttered into the night air, pirouetting and turning amidst a million snow flurries just beginning to fall.
Mario Rivera, Orange and Blue Hemoglobin

Mario Rivera, Orange and Blue Hemoglobin


 
His body fell to the ground. It wasn’t like a movie at all.
 
Each bullet met its target and sank in, slowly forcing him to the ground, until inevitably, his body met with the concrete, in a final sinking.
 
My mouth was still hanging open, my arms still in position, my own breathing, labored, as my breath billowed from my mouth in clouds of steam.
 
I knew. I knew right then.
 
From there, everything happened fast. Suddenly the police were there. And ambulances, of course.
 
They took him to the hospital. The officers began questioning me. But I could barely hear them over the loudness of the bright red blood against the pristine white snow and the old, cracked asphalt.
 
I answered as best as I could, but everything was spinning. I was crying. Not because I was scared, but because I knew…. I fucking knew that everything that had happened was preventable.
 
I knew, that whatever happened to him, wasn’t because of fear, or racism, or danger. It was because of insecurity.
 
I swallowed hard. Someone innocent, at that very moment was riding in the back of ambulance on the way to a hospital fighting for his life, dying for my self-esteem.
 
In one moment, I had changed both of our lives. Both of us, two strangers, leading two completely separate and distinct linear existences, and I ended his. And now, his whole life, his whole
existence, everything he’s ever done, anyone he’s ever helped, I’ve reduced all of that to being defined by one insignificant stranger with something to prove.
 
And what had I proved, except that I could take someone’s life away? Instead of feeling powerful and respected, I felt small and weak and vulnerable.
 
“So you were the victim then?” the female officer was asking me. I hadn’t been keeping track of the conversation.
 
She was young, maybe late 20s, big, brown, caring eyes and corn-wheat colored hair.
 
“Huh?” I asked.
 
“You’re the victim? You said, he attacked you?”
 
My life. His life. My family. His family. I hadn’t even thought about my family, my parents, Katie, Alley, my friends…
 
I gulped. “Yes. I was defending myself.”
 
 
 
 
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2 Responses to Stand Your Ground

  1. Bayyinah says:

    Wow! This is powerful. Have to read it again.

  2. 偷拍 says:

    Sincerely Yours,I log on to your blogs named “Stand Your Ground | Midtown: A Journal of Writing and Fine Arts” on a regular basis. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep it up! And you can check my website about 偷拍.

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