A quickening. Life shaping.

Photo by Chris Blonk on Unsplash

A low-slung car crept up behind us, cautiously came parallel to my car on my left. We were now side by side.

They stopped. My hair stood on the back of my neck, I knew this could be a big problem. Had they rolled by, no problem.

A rooster crowed, and others quickly followed. Off in the not too far distance the unmistakable popping sounds of rapid gunfire, ‘pop, pop, pop!!!’ as common as crickets in this Honduran town.

It was three am; the streets were like a ghost town.

“Gringo mierda!” The classic slogan coming from the car next to us. Other unintelligible words, then silence.

One-pointed, single-minded, focused, and fluid. I unnecessarily chambered a round in my Colt Commander.45 that I always kept between my legs when driving around this godforsaken city. It all happened so quickly. By quickly, I mean seconds. I want to say, automatically. My reaction, that is. It was as though I’d trained for this a thousand times, as perhaps a real soldier might.

It serves to mention that I am not a gun ‘nut’, whatever that may be. As a youth, yes, I enjoyed firearms for hunting and repairing them. But to say I was some sort of gun fanatic would be way off the truth. The only reason I owned this pistol was because of this notion that perhaps it would be of service. After all, this city is known for its rampant gun violence.

I am certain to this day that this action on my part saved our lives. The alternative would’ve been taking a bullet to the face and my girlfriend dragged off and raped as happened with my 17-year-old brother and his date over twenty years before in the lonely streets, late one night in Guatemala City.

It was as though something in me had waited for this night. I was thoroughly familiar and practiced with my pistol. My motions were that of a robot, no thought, just reaction, instant.

The sound of the chambering round was by design, which also had things gone just a hair different could have been my fatal flaw. Chambering a round for the visual impact it has and for the universally recognized sound, it makes also meant losing a bullet, leaving me with eight. Yes, eight because I’d always kept a ninth in the chamber and ready to go.

My girlfriend also seemed perfectly in tune and trained as she remained as still as ice and not making a sound. She was raised in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the planet’s most crime-ridden cities. She’d faced down the barrel of a pistol at least two times before. Luckily, all went without tragedy.

There we were, the classic Mexican standoff.

The car next to us had windows up, as did we. My windows weren’t polarized, so they could clearly see me. They also must have seen my pistol in the air and must have seen that come hell or high water, I was going to put up resistance. Thugs by nature are cowards. The last thing they want is to take a bullet. I’m sure we all saw the predicament.

My.45 Colt semi was a brutally powerful pistol at this almost point-blank range, would’ve been very messy.

Our car was a high riding Forerunner, especially high because of my huge tires. This gave us an advantage as I was almost looking down at their low slung cruiser. The purple glow of interior neon told me it wasn’t good. Not to profile, but a lawyer or a doctor or a church-going citizen more than likely does not sport interior neon. In fact, the neon very well may have assisted us by ‘blinding’ them or at least making their visual less than optimum.

After what seemed an eternity, my breathing frozen, they slid off, very slowly and continued on their way down the poorly lit, garbage-strewn street of the colonia. Three car lengths away they did the very common and not surprising catcalls and howls typical of misdirected bravado. Again, not to profile, architects, nor hotel general managers are apt to behave this way. These were common thugs. I could very well be wrong.

I don’t need to say that as soon as they were out of eyesight; we took off.

This experience did something to me. Though what I’d be hard-pressed to tell. There was a confirmation of sorts. Yes, there was a degree of satisfaction knowing that if a situation like this arose, my natural reactions were going to be preservation and defense.

I’m not a fighter, nor was I ever a soldier.

Much later, as I analyzed the incident, things came to light. These guys upon seeing me with the ready pistol knew this would not go well. They also knew that had they determined to take some potshots at me, they first would have had to lower their window. Quite simply, these guys were not about to blast holes through their precious car windows. My focus was on their windows. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt had one or more of their windows started lowering I’m certain I would’ve emptied my pistol into their car. It was a gamble, I know, but one I was willing to take.

This was in an instant a defining moment for me. I could almost savor a ‘quickening’! To stress, I just knew that I would not have hesitated; I would have emptied my automatic. The change experienced was more a confirmation of how I might behave in situations like this one. With gods’ help, had I fired, that I hope I would’ve had the continuing presence of mind to change out to a full magazine I always kept in my glove box and would have continued firing before driving away.

After what happened years prior to my brother, I would not lower my window at three AM, smiley-faced, this would’ve only ended badly. Guaranteed.

You may wonder: what in hell were we doing out at that hour in the first place and why in god were we parked there?

Simple. We’d just spent the night dancing in the crazy San Pedro discos, which was a hell of a lot of fun! On our way to drop her off at her house, we thought it a swell idea to enjoy one another’s company. Her house wouldn’t have worked because her Mom was worse than the police and perhaps rightfully so, she was very wary of me. So three blocks away from her home, we parked.

We married and are still happy and fighting after almost 25 years.

Afterthoughts: years later I was taken at gunpoint, four gunmen, kidnapped. To this day I am grateful I was not packing a pistol, I’d be dead now. But then the circumstances were entirely independent of one incident and the other. Strategies, of necessity, must change. When they grabbed me, the loved one I was with was well apart and this of course changes one’s behavior.

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