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Fast and Strong
The angry red scar stretched across my palm like a sadistic smile. It ran from the soft flesh at the base of my thumb to the taunt skin under my pinky finger. When I spread my fingers, it pulled and stung.
I do not have to struggle to remember how I got this scar. Looking down on it now, the day the incident occurred flies back into my mind as clear as day.
I was walking down my road to pick up take-out food for my family. It was almost dusk, the sky fading slowly to darkness like a small child fighting sleep even though his eyelids are heavy as lead. The air was biting, cold; I was bundled tight in a long black coat with faux fur at the collar. My obnoxiously pink earbuds were jammed deep into my ears. At that moment, as my boots slapped pavement and my whistling bounced off the brick of buildings, all that was on my mind was how Katy Perry could write such racy lyrics when she grew up with two minister parents.
But in a sudden flash, I was yanked out of the world of kissing girls and teenage dreams and forced into an alleyway. A rough hand pushed between my breasts and slammed my back against the rough, graphitized wall. My breath caught in my throat as my iPod was ripped off of me and my coat torn off my shoulders. A glint of metal flashed from the tip of a butcher’s knife.
“If you say anything, I’ll slice ya,” the voice talking came from the barely recognizable face of a man. His eyes were covered by dark sunglasses, his words muffled by one of those bandanas you can buy three-for-a-dollar at any corner store. He was short but strong, easily holding me down as I struggled.
The bandana man moved the knife to the hand that squeezed on my chest, sharp point mere centimeters from my nose. I could not breathe. I felt like I was drowning as he used his free hands to try to rip my clothes off. I could not breathe.
For a moment, I blanked out. I was not in that dirty alleyway. They say that when you are in sufficient danger, your life flashes before your eyes. This is not true. Only the most important, defining moments of your life come to you, and they do not flash, but appear in great clarity.
I was six. I was racing my friends on the field at recess. I left them in my dust as my legs pounded the ground, my little fists pumped up and down. It was then I first realized that I was fast.
I was ten. I pushed every last amount of effort I had out of me and burst through the ribbon at the one-mile children’s race finish line. My mother and father threw themselves on me, hugging me and telling me how proud they were. I was on Daddy’s shoulders when they handed me my ribbon, and the bearded race coordinator whistled, “Man, you got a tough one there”.
It was last Christmas. I was fifteen. I opened a cheerfully wrapped boxed and laid the new T-shirt over my lap. My parents had had it personalized. I’m fast. I’m strong. I dare you to mess with me. I nearly cried when I opened it. I’ve worn it to every race since.
I’m fast. I’m strong.
Man, you got a tough one there.
I was back in the alleyway. The man had pulled my top down. I was frozen.
But not anymore.
In one swift jab, I pulled up my right fist and socked him in the jaw. He yelped, surprised. He thought I had been subdued. In retaliation, he slammed my offending arm into the brick. I made a move to hit him again, but this time, he was prepared. The knife sliced my palm as I tried to knock into him again.
It was then I realized that he was a novice. The gushing blood made him shake. “See what you did, see what you did….” He muttered as he shortened the space between him and me. His shaking body was pressed against mine.
I did not cry as the blood dripped down my wrist. Instead, I slammed my knee into his groin, causing my offender to double over in pain. His weapon temporarily down, I grabbed the handle and whipped it away from him. I threw the knife into the yawning darkness of the alley, and then ran like hell.
I’m fast. I’m strong. I dare you to mess with me.
My boots did not slap playfully against the sidewalk but made popping noises like firecrackers as I raced down the street, my muscular legs, defined by years of racing, in full control of my movements. My fists no longer pumped crazily, but steadily. That little girl at recess was fast; this bigger girl running for her life was faster.
It seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes, until I reached the door of my apartment. I was late and my mother and father were in the hallway, pacing and worrying. The take-out. I ran into their arms. I had crossed another finish line.
“Baby, baby, what happened?” my mother was alarmed. My father gasped when he saw the dried lines of blood running from my palm to the middle of my forearm.
“Somebody tried to rape me” was all I could explain. Because then I broke down and began to sob. At first, I hesitated to let the tears flow. I’m strong. But a small voice told me; those who are strong can show their emotions.
And I cried hard as my mother held me and sirens began to wail towards me.
The heavy-voiced judge called me. I stopped studying my scar and focused my attention towards the courtroom as I took the long, laborious walk to the witness stand.
I can do this. I’m fast. I’m strong. I dare you to mess with me.
“Can you please point out the man who attacked you on the evening of December eighth?”
With a deep breath, I used my scarred hand to point to the man sitting in the defendant’s chair right in front of me. Three months ago, with his sunglasses and bandana, he had seemed mysterious and dangerous. Now, dressed in a cheap brown suit with pimples on his round face, he looked like a wimpy kid not much older than me.
The scar will always be on my hand. It will always tug when I stretch out my fingers and tingle when I make a fist. But it will always be there to remind me.
I’m fast. I’m strong. I dare you to mess with me.