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  • "It's..." they start and run out of words, eyes filling with tears, voices filling with tears, and I shrug with a sad smile.

    "It is OK," I offer. "I am OK... Or I will be."

    I wave at the boot and draw watery eyes from my face because I cannot comfort them if they make me cry, and they desperately need my comfort. I have just shattered their worlds; I am the only one who can fix it.

    "The doctor thinks I'll be able to walk Savannah at the end of February. 50 miles!"

    Brows lift.

    "Well, maybe not all of it, but when I told him I would, he took one look at me and said, 'Yes, I think you might.'"

    They laugh. I laugh. Eyes dry, and I sigh. Crisis averted.

    "It's a good thing you weren't hurt..." they look down for a beat, "worse."

    I smile again.

    "I know, right? I am fine... Or I will be fine in a few weeks. One day with the boot, and I already feel a million times better."

    And in that instant, I believe I am telling the truth: I am fine.

    Perhaps it would be better if I could get angry, frustrated, or scared, but I can't. I understand. I know it wasn't about me at all, but a lifetime of societal and institutional failures left them destitute, desperate, and drugged. I just happened to be there, small and vulnerable all alone in my stupid red cords and Loft sweater, eyeglasses and earnest expression.

    Hey, there Little Red Riding Hood... You sure are looking good. You're everything a big bad wolf could want.

    I no longer sleep, plagued by nightmares when I try, and I no longer try, scared of more than the nightmares and things that go bump in the night. I fear that I will wake up to find myself on the sidewalk, injured, confused, and invisible. I am terrified that I will wake up to find that this is all a dream.

    I chose this.

    Lying there, as the colors faded and my mind fell through the tenuous structure meant to keep it in place, I gave up.

    I prayed to die.

    When I woke the first time and saw my hair glinting golden red against the grit of a winter sidewalk, I gave up again. And again. And again. But my eyes kept opening.

    When people ignored my cries for help, when people ignored my pleas, I wondered if maybe I had become invisible, and I knew how I must look. I knew what they saw, anyway, what they didn't see, and I knew how the homeless felt.

    "Can you help me?" I cried, tears streaming down my face. "Will you call the police? I've been assaulted."

    Everything was gone. My phone, iPod, and camera. My keys and my wallet. My purse with the money I'd raised to make care kits for the homeless and my backpack with my work laptop, my three favorite t-shirts, and a favorite tote that had carried my lunch.

    My shoes and jacket had been pulled off, searched, and discarded. I vaguelly recalled a conversation about taking my glasses.

    People walked past in their pretty party clothes. Holiday season, it wasn't that late. Nobody looked at me. None of them stopped.

    "Please. Will you call the police?"

    I crawled to the curb, dragging my shoes and jacket behind me. I tried to flag down a car. I cried.

    Then, I put on my shoes, and I got up.

    I chose to get up.

    I chose to move forward.

    I could barely see and had no idea where I was, but I chose to walk on my torn and swollen ankle until I found help and I decided that if my ankle gave out, I would crawl until I found it because I was not giving up. I got up.

    I got up.

    I chose life.

    I chose light and love.

    I chose to give everything that I was (and everything that I am) to my belief in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because while there is darkness in the world, hate, anger, and fear cannot drive it out. Only light can do that. Only love can do that.

    Letting three destitute, desperate, and drug-addled men take that from me would have been a far greater travesty than a torn and swollen ankle or the loss of a few thousand dollars in personal items and electronics.

    It is a good thing I wasn't hurt... worse, but it doesn't matter.

    I got up.
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