I didn’t really ever think things would be different when Mom got home. I mean I knew she and Dad were over long before she did. I also knew she wouldn’t move on, ever. How does a seven-year old stoner know these things? Anything? I knew I wouldn’t end up like her. I knew I wasn’t going to rot away swimming around the stagnant little fish bowl known as Corpus Christi. The stench of sub-mediocrity permeated the city, and looking back, the only thing I regret is not leaving sooner.
A lot happened by the time I turned nineteen and pulled my first geographic…thank Elvis for the simple moments of clarity at the bottom, no matter how quick, or slight.
We had been at the late-night happy hour. Gary was cocky…an idiot. Good looking, obviously dangerous and a drug dealer. My boyfriend…what a catch. He provided cocaine, meth and some even great prescriptives. Which was what had him going that night.
“Get in the fucking car! Do it NOW!” he screamed at me.
He looked crazy, his face grey, and his eyes cold and focused…like a reptile’s.
The sound of the blast left my ears ringing, and my hearing muffled. Gary’s still yelling at me, and belligerently cussing at the poor bastard he had just shot. My eyes were gritty from the gunpowder I suppose…all I knew is they hurt. The air is thick, I can’t breathe. I look at my feet and there is blood flowing down the incline of the parking space. It’s running rich and fast over the toe box of my bright yellow pumps. The tremendous contrast of thick-dark blood, and fluorescent yellow, have me hypnotized. I feel sick. I’m afraid to look beyond my cheap pumps to see this stranger’s face, as he lies on the ground of a dusty parking lot in a lame tired town, fighting for his life. I knew this kid was not like us. He was rich…he was a spring breaker who was from a real city. He was someone who counted, someone who had a big future, some one who went to a real university. Someone who had people rooting for him, someone who would be missed. He was not like us.
The pressure in my eardrums subsided all at once. “POP!” Suddenly everything is so loud. I can hear sirens. Bouncers are running toward the scene, and Gary’s staring at me holding the weapon, waiting for me to make my move. I throw my hands in the air and back away from the car.
“I break up.” I say shaking my head. “No way, …I break up!”
Gary throws the rifle in the back seat of the car, jumps in and races away. I turn around and look at the kid. His arm wouldn’t survive, but he would. I was relieved. His friend who ran at the sight of the rifle, approaches with a couple of bouncers and what seems like the entire SAE frat house, as I slip away into the quickly forming crowd. Once away from all the chaos, I walk into the bar, tell the doorman, I had seen everything and ask him to keep me safe until the cops arrive.
The next time I saw Gary was about forty minutes after he made his getaway. He was in the back of a squad car. I ID’d Gary in the squad car. They shined a bright light in his eyes so he couldn’t see who was fingering him, but it didn’t matter. I made sure he heard me,
“Yeah that’s him.”
I didn’t look back. I left behind the orangey sunsets and muggy nights that made my hair curl. The stick-straight horizon, and the black storms that appeared in instant to reap havoc and further “hillbilly-fy” the landscape. I said good riddance to the good Christian souls who promised to pray for me, and my mother. I erased the memory of our over- grown yard, and our crumbling house that my mother burned to ground one night. And, I kissed goodbye the ones I would miss most; my meth-faced contemporaries, who picked at their sores, and stabbed each other in the back. I didn’t look back.
This piece won an honOrable mention in the Writer’s digest 80th annual writing competition… “I didn’t look back” was awarded 53rd place…of 11,800 entries.
Dear Lynn Sanchez McClintock,
One of my most enjoyable tasks as editor of Writer’s Digest is passing along good news to writers. This is one of those fun occasions. It is my pleasure to tell you that your entry I Didn’t Look Back, has been awarded 53 place in Memoirs/Personal Essay category of the 80th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition! We will mail your Certificate of Achievement which honors your accomplishment in mid-November. Finishing among the top 100 entries is an accomplishment you can be proud of (there were 11,800 entries!).
Your success in the face of such formidable competition speaks highly of your writing talent, and should be a source of great pride as you continue in your writing career.
I congratulate you again on your accomplishment, and wish you the best of luck in your future writing.
Jessica Strawser, Editor