May 12, 2016
I’ll apologize now for not writing sooner. I’m sure you can understand what happened in Toronto this last week has been very…
Honestly, I keep my head down. I don’t watch the news or follow “Ratfanger’s” or “EatADick” as trending topics on social media. In fact, aside from the occasional tweet and sharing my experience here, I try to stay away from social media, new sources, anything that connects me to anyone I don’t personally know.
What happened at Rogers Centre was, I guess, what some people would describe as a “wake-up call”.
I stood in front of the TV with my dad, with Sam and Tim. We were about to have dinner. Every channel was showing what was broadcasting from the stadium. You remember that story about Orson Welles reading War of the Worlds on the radio and people supposedly thinking it was real, it was like that, at first. People didn’t think it was real.
As soon as I was able to pull myself away from… god, why didn’t they stop those cameras… from what had happened at the ball game, I left Dad’s house. I can’t remember if Sam was panicked or if it was the pulsing in my ears that made everything seem scarier. But she was telling me we couldn’t go back to living on the streets. She was calling David and Laura and trying to get them to talk me down.
But they weren’t picking up. Not that it surprised me.
I knew they had probably seen it, too. After all, Tim didn’t have the Dodger’s game on. He was watching the Diamondbacks. But every station quickly began showing Rogers Centre, with a picture in a picture of what had started the whole thing. How people can watch others die on TV and it’s somehow okay because “it’s the news” will always be beyond me.
I didn’t feel safe where we usually parked the Bronco, but I drove there because I wanted Eartha. She was waiting for us on the side of the curb. When I tried to pick her up and put her in the Bronco she ran. It was like she knew I was no longer safe to be around. She disappeared into the trees that climbed the hillside towards a sun-rotted wooden fence.
“Dick, you have to realize that the last place you should be right now is in the open,” Sam shouted at me as I slipped trying to chase that cat. “She’ll be okay.”
Eartha is a better runner than I am, a better hider. I wish I was a cat. I pushed myself up and stumbled back down the hillside, “We need to find a new place to go.”
“David and Laura said we could stay through Tuesday.”
“And they’re not picking up,” I said, dusting my hands and knees.
“They probably aren’t near their phones. We should just go over there-”
“They’re not picking up because they’re still watching Dodger’s fans eat the Orioles on ESPN.”
“Blue Jays, Dick. They were the Blue Jays.”
“Sam, I don’t know who David and Laura were last night. Maybe you were right. Maybe they were my best friends in the whole world. But now they’re just more people who realized what this world is coming to. And it’s time for you to do the same.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you have five minutes to think of where you want me to take you and then I’m letting you go.”
“Dick, I’m not leaving you.”
I opened the door to the Bronco and climbed into the driver’s seat. She stood outside the passenger window. “Get in and start thinking.”
“No,” she said loud enough to be heard in the car. “If you’re going to leave me then leave me here.”
“Sam, get in the god damn car.”
“I’m not doing this. I’m not going into hiding again.”
“You’re not doing it. You’re done.”
“And I’m not abandoning you.”
A breath escaped me and my head fell against the steering wheel. “I can’t… I don’t know how to make you understand all of this.”
Sam opened the car door but didn’t move an inch closer, “People are watching what’s happening at that game and they’re going to be looking for you. You’re scared. You think David and Laura are scared, that they’re going to turn you in. I understand all of it.”
“You’re tired of sleeping in a car,” I said to her. “You’re tired of being cold and not being able to stretch your legs. You’re… look, I don’t understand you. Please don’t make me leave you here. Let me take you some place safe.”
“To do what, Andersen? To wait to hear they’ve finally caught you? To see people eating you on TV or on YouTube again?”
I gave her five minutes. She didn’t budge.
A car came down the road, slowly to the end of our cul-de-sac, our little dirt circle where homes forgot to grow. It passed along side us and the passenger’s looked in at us, “Just get in the car!” I almost screamed. The car turned around the wide end so that the driver pulled up beside me.
I could feel my heart hitting me in my throat and I turned the car on.
They rolled down their window as Sam stepped and shut the door.
I hit the gas, turned hard into the wide end and jumped the curb to drive past them.
They didn’t follow.
In retrospect they may have been lost. And Sam and I still had nowhere to go.
We didn’t go to David and Laura’s that night, we didn’t stay on the side of the road, either. We drove all night. We bickered about whether or not I should be allowed to listen to what was happening on the radio. But as the carnage in Rogers Centre spilled into rioting in the streets of Toronto, she stopped interfering with the radio and just let me listen.
I drove east towards the mountains. When the Bronco began to struggle at higher altitudes, I turned and headed back into the other direction.
That night, #SaveADick was one of the top ten trending topics on Twitter. People were begging me to stay the night with them. #EatADick was one of the top seven.
The longer we drove, the closer the night drew to a close. If I could get through it, it would be behind me, I thought. But there was a feeling in my Achilles tendon, a pressure or a pinch, something akin to feeling of teeth pressing down, that anchored me into the reality that none of this was going to wash away so easily.
I guess thoughts are less informed than feelings.