It was 1987, close to midnight on a warm Miami night. My friend M and I were taking a shortcut home across an unlit golf course. We were about halfway across when we heard angry voices coming from about 50 yards behind us, then fast-approaching footsteps.
“RUN!” said M, and we ran. I had short legs and was wearing heavy combat boots. M quickly outpaced me and disappeared into the night. I was being chased, alone in the dark, and my predator was closing in. This was not going to end well.
I was 15 and had begun hanging around M a lot. He was a skater kid, a freckled blond who wore baggy shorts and flannel. He lived with his mom in a small house in Coral Gables. His mom was never home so M would skip school, smoke cigarettes and listen to records all day. He had an amazing collection of UK-import Dickies records from the late 70s. His favorite band, though, was Social Distortion. He wore their t-shirt under his flannel practically every day.
M did lots of things to get attention. He gave the impression of someone who did a lot of drugs, although he didn’t have any money for drugs, and I never saw him do drugs. One time he said he’d been in a mosh pit the night before and someone with a spiked ring had punched him and cut the inside of his mouth. He pulled down his lower lip to reveal a wide slice along the ridge of his gum. It was years later before I figured out that everyone has that “slice” on their gums. He also gave me one of his Minor Threat records (the iconic one pictured here)—hinting that he wasn’t going to be around much longer so he might as well. (M survived at least four more years; I last saw him at UM. I was a student; he was just riding a BMX bike around campus, completely unchanged. A Google search today reveals nothing.)
I too did things to get attention. In fact, just that day M had used a Bic disposable razor to give me a mohawk. It was uneven and left large bloody cuts on my scalp. Later, my driver’s ed coach would remark that I had a dead ferret on my head. I also had braces and was small for my age. My appearance during this stage of adolescence once prompted a child crossing the street in ethnically diverse South Miami to remark, “Damn, that’s one ugly-ass cracker!” Looking back, he had a point, and my haircut didn’t do me any favors.
So I’m running as fast as I can, running for my life, even, and it’s not fast enough. Someone bigger and faster and stronger than me, who wants to do me harm, is quite literally breathing down my neck. I reach the far end of the golf course, cross into the backyard of one of the houses on the perimeter when a large hand grabs hold of my t-shirt and yanks me to a stop. I’m caught. I’m dead.
He’s winded. He’s still holding onto my t-shirt but he’s doubled over, catching his breath. “I can’t believe I caught you,” he wheezes. He’s big, much bigger than me, but kind of pasty-looking and baby-faced. He’s wearing an unseasonable leather jacket and an unfashionable fedora. He’s not someone I would ordinarily find intimidating but now that he’s chased me across a golf course and dragged me to a stop I’m plenty intimidated. I’m long past “fight-or-flight” having already fled and lost. Now there is no choice but to fight and I am going to get my ass kicked.
Then a funny thing happens. We look up at the house in whose backyard I am about to get pounded. The house has large sliding-glass doors that lead to a bedroom. A bedside lamp is on, and on the bed are a man and a woman, naked, chubby, mid-coitus. My oppressor releases his grip on my t-shirt and for a moment we just stand there, watching, open-mouthed. Then I quietly slip away into the darkness.