When I was 5 years old, I had a friend who lived one street over, but our houses lined up so that we shared a backyard fence.
This sounds like the ultimate in coolness and convenience, but my mother decreed that I was not allowed to climb the fence to go visit her. If I was invited over, I was to walk around in a civilized fashion and appear at their front door.
I was also not allowed to walk over to her house by myself, no matter how I complained and cajoled. We lived in a decent neighborhood, but not the kind where everyone knew everyone and kept an eye out on the neighborhood kids. Also, the way around was fairly long, and people tended to drive on her street pretty quickly, plus there wasn’t a real sidewalk.
Eventually, one day my mother relented. I could walk around by myself, and call her as soon as I arrived at my friend’s house.
I set off on my little adventure. I made it about half way to my friend’s house when I came upon a group of big boys. To then me, they were huge. To now me, I think they were in the 5th to 7th grade range. I continued on my route, without hesitation, for the last time in my life.
The boys parted to let me walk into their midst, but then closed ranks behind me, and surrounded me. How many boys? All the boys in the world, as far as I was concerned, but I am guessing 5 or 6 of them.
I tried to continue on my way, but they kept blocking me. Bumping me. Trapping me.
“Where you going?”
“To my friend’s.”
“You want to hang with us?”
“I have to go to my friend’s.”
I kept trying to pass. They kept preventing me.
“I have to go.”
“Just give me a kiss, and we’ll let you go.”
“Yeah, give us some kisses.”
Adrenaline coursed through my body. I didn’t know that at the time, but I am well familiar with the signs and symptoms now. Fear and rage and regret and so much flight or fight, but with no understanding of how to do either one.
Shaking I tried to pass them, and just kept saying I had to go.
Then one boy said, “Wait a minute. I think I know her,” and they all paused.
“Are you Jimmy’s little sister’s friend?”
“Let her go guys.” Turning to me, “Don’t tell.”
So, I made my way to my friend’s house, and I called my house to say I had made it there safely.
I didn’t tell on the boys. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I was told I shouldn’t walk by myself, but I kept bugging them to let me walk by myself. I didn’t want them to know that I couldn’t even walk one street over by myself.
Not that I intended to walk to her house by myself again.
Hell, at least I made it to 5.