Getting Shot in Portland
"Oh, Charley knows all about that, huh Charles? Tell everyone how much fun getting shot is." I was sitting next to my ex wife, in her house, amongst all our friends celebrating her 35th birthday. The ex wife I was now totally in love with again. It was one of her favorite things to do, needle me about "trying to pick up a woman and instead getting shot!"
She began to tell the story, but I interrupted, "No, no. I'll tell them. I don't need a spokesperson." I had my hand on one of her knees. Myra smiled at me, turning to tell the room, "He lies a bit, but he does tell it better". She turned back to me, unbuttoned my blue workshirt a little and opened it enough that everyone could see the ugly scar at my shoulder, where she planted a kiss.
I looked at the 20 pairs of eyes staring at me and my shoulder, thinking "how can I tell this where I don't come out looking like an idiot". I looked around for Dana and found her sitting next to Myra's brother, a new coupling. She was staring knowingly at me, smiling hugely, but I thought a little sadly too. My brother was sitting behind her with a pained look on his face I completely understood.
She asked if she could sit at the table I was at alone. It was the 4th of July and the park was packed. All the benches and picnic tables were full, and I realized the only available seat I could see was here. Of course I was going to say yes anyway, she was blond, thin and cute.
"Sure" and I moved some of my stuff from one side of the table.
"Thanks, I was ready to leave. I should have gotten here earlier. How long have you been here?"
I looked at my iPad to see the time, and rubbed my chin.
"Hmmm, not really sure, I think I got here around 4, so I've been here like two and a half hours."
She pulled her iPad out of her backpack and opened it up in front of her. I went back to my email until she asked, "Which version is yours? I've been thinking about getting the new one, Air, right?"
"Mine is an iPad Air2, I just got it last week."
"Well crap," she replied, "you could have picked one up for me??" She had a cute grin on her face and I was happier than ever I had said yes.
"If your whole life you hadn't been such a B to me, ignoring me, sitting with me in the cafeteria when my table had the ONLY seat in the place, I mean really, have you ever treated me in such a way that I would think about you at the Apple Store??"
We both had a good laugh and the conversation was on. We showed each other photos from our iPads, talked about living in Portland, the bridges, generally got to know one another. Then she asked me, "so, alone much?" She bit her lip after she said that, and I wondered if she immediately regretted asking me. Maybe she thought it embarrassed me.
"Oh, I spend a lot of time alone. My ex is a fitness model, she travels all over the world. She's in Chile now, or, eh Brazil. Damn, not really sure. I've got her schedule here", pointing to my iPad, "I can never keep up with her. Except when I go with her."
"Your ex?? Fitness model?"
"OK, OK, one question at a time. Yea. I know, sounds funny. We aren't married any longer, but we still spend a hell of a lot of time together. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why we ever went through the pain of a divorce. But maybe marriage wasn't really right for us."
"Fitness model? I'm not sure I really know what that is."
I was ready to explain how she became a model, volleyball at UCLA, we met on a photo shoot. But I realized that Dana was no longer listening to me. I saw the tears in her eyes and now it seemed the reason she regretted asking me about being alone didn't have anything to do with embarrassing me.
She was looking at her iPad, but wasn't really concentrating on it. I thought she was concentrating on not crying. She was tense, fists clinched, teeth grinding. I figured I'd just be quiet and let her lead us to the next step.
She looked up at me and tried to smile, "that sounds nice", she said haltingly. She sniffed a couple times and wiped her eyes.
"I'll – I'll be right back. Just a minute."
She got up from the table and walked over to the sidewalk. She stood there looking out over The Columbia River with the Cathedral Bridge towering over it and was motionless for a long time. After a few minutes I returned to my iPad, and went back to the email I had been writing previously.
She finally walked back to the table but didn't sit down. She picked up her iPad, closed the cover and said to me, "I better go."
She started to turn away but I stood up and grabbed her hand.
"Don't go Dana. Sit down, tell me about it. Tell me how hard it is, tell me what you're doing to try to get past it."
She turned and looked at me and we both stared at each other for a few seconds. Finally she had a little smile on her face and she sat down. She seemed like a completely different person than the woman who sat down there 45 minutes ago. With her eyes cast down she said, "it's been over two months, I'm still acting like a baby. I've never talked with anyone about this. But since I really don't know who the hell you are, maybe you're the one I should discuss it with."
"Well, we all know it's better when you talk about it, right"? She didn't look at me. "Right?", I said again, this time facing the crowd on the sidewalk.
She laughed this time, and she already looked so much better.
She faced me straight on now and said, without quivering, "Okay, I think you're right. I just don't know how long this will take me to get it all out. It's embarrassing and ugly and really scary. And other than the police you're going to be the only person that knows what happened to me."
Police, I thought? Really? Maybe, I thought, I should just avoid all this and put my head back into my iPad. But there was a big part of me that wanted to know what was going on here, and I really wanted to be friends with this person.
"Well", I said, "if the police could handle hearing it, surely I could. And I really like cop stories, my brother is a cop."
"Really? Here in Portland?"
I pointed to my brother in uniform with his partner, they were right under the bridge on the river's edge. "Right there. He loves the St. Johns Bridge, he always gets this duty on the 4th".
"Well, I feel much safer. He looks like you. Maybe a little taller?"
"Way taller. I'm 5'11"' he's 6'3".
Now she wasn't listening. Her head was down, but she was talking.
"He wasn't very nice. Turns out he was a wacko asshole. Pretty embarrassing, I was with him 6 months before I awoke from my fog. And then he became even worse."
Just then Rusty, my brother, got to our table. I introduced Dana to Rusty and his partner Garrett and there was a little small talk. I think my brother thought I was getting lucky, and so he and his partner headed off on their rounds.
When he had gone Dana said, "wow, you guys really do look a lot alike. And you really look like the same age?"
"We're 14 months apart. Since I was a kid the one steady thing in my life, my big, big brother."
She interrupted me blurting out, "oh shit".
At that instant I felt something slap me in the back of the head. I turned around and looked at a short man standing behind me who started screaming at Dana. But she stood up and yelled right back.
"What are you doing? My God Butch, is this going to happen over and over again?"
He walked around me to Dana and grabbed her arm pulling her up. I got up and shoved him away from her.
"I don't know who the hell you are, but you need to calm down right now."
He got up, reached into the back pocket of his jeans, pulled out a gun and without hesitation he just shot me.
I felt the bullet rip into my left shoulder, and immediately thought "this might be as painful as anything I've ever experienced".
I regained my senses and looked at my assailant. He was no longer looking at me and the gun was no longer turned my way, it was pointed at Dana. People all around the park were scrambling everywhere, looking for any space far away from the nutcase with the gun.
This Butch guy was a lot smaller than me, I was thinking 5 foot seven, 5 foot eight tops. All this was running through my head as I was trying simultaneously to gather together what was happening and what could I do about it. He was skinny, long red hair, face totally flushed. He reminded me a lot of a guy I knew In high school. A kid who was constantly being picked on and who me and my friends always stood up for.
As I strained to get up off the ground, trying to ignore the pain in my shoulder, he was slowly walking towards Dana and screaming at her. I had no idea what he was saying, I was just concentrating on getting to him before he shot her. With each step and movement of my body pain shot from my shoulder into my brain. During the five or six seconds it took me to reach him, I thought over and over again I was going to collapse. But instead I was moving so quickly by the time I reached him I couldn't stop, and I hit him hard enough that both of us tumbled to the ground. I fell against him with my injured shoulder between us, the pain was unbelievable and I felt like I was going to pass out.
Some inner voice was telling me I needed to find the gun. I tried to move my face towards where I thought it would be, or his hand would be, but nothing moved. I kept concentrating on opening my eyes and looking around, but then I heard Dana yell: "Butch get up and move away from him".
I simply couldn't open my eyes. Both my shoulder and head were spiking with pain and it dominated everything I was thinking. At some point I completely forgot about Butch, wasn't really worried about him, just worried I was dying. I remember thinking, "Wow, I'm going to die right here in my favorite Park". I was finally able to open my eyes slightly and saw Rusty reaching for me. I remember even with the pain how relieved I was to see him.
My next memory was in Portland Community Hospital. I woke up groggy and in a fog. As the haze cleared I tried to figure out why was I in a hospital bed? Slowly the memory of the night before began to come back to me. I remembered meeting Dana, and then my mind spun forward, thinking about being shot. I hadn't even thought about my shoulder until that memory. As I was wondered where Dana was, what had happened, was she OK, I could now feel my really sore shoulder.
Soon I was more conscious and thinking more rationally. I finally was able to open my eyes and keep them open, actually focusing on what was in front of me. It was a tall man in uniform.
"About time" my brother mocked. He was leaning against my bed, and his fingers were interlocked on top of his head. I could immediately sense the strain in his voice. He looked right at me and said something silly, but I knew he wasn't thinking that way. It was a little while before he told me that when Butch had shot me, Rusty thought I was dead. He had frozen for a second but not his partner. Eventually Garrett shot at Butch, as he was afraid Butch was going to shoot Dana. Butch ran and everyone gathered around me, laying on the ground bleeding and unconscious. Looking at my brother I knew he must have been a basket case the whole night, waiting for me to wake up.
And then I heard Dana.
When she saw me open my eyes, she ran to the door yelling, "he's awake!"
She came back in to the side of my bed, putting her hand on my good arm. "They told me to let them know when you opened your eyes. Welcome back. How are you feeling?"
My eyes weren't completely open, but slowly I was feeling more like a living, breathing, adult male person. I remembered Dana, I remembered Butch, and I painfully remembered the gun.
That wasn't the end of the story, but it was all I was going to tell tonight. I wasn't going to tell them how Dana had left me in the hospital room, gone home to find her house broken into, things broken throughout the house, and in the master bedroom found Butch hanging from a noose he made with one of Dana's belts. I wasn't going to tell them how Dana's roommate came home from her Memorial Day weekend, and found her sitting alone in the corner of the room, sobbing, talking to her self, screaming at her other self. Lila, her roommate, got her out of the house, called the police, and stayed with her through the night.
Also I was never going to ever tell anyone about Rusty and I after Dana left and the two of us were alone together in the hospital room. That conversation, those feelings and those hugs would be between me and my big brother forever.