I was driving east on Alberni Street, on my way to work. I had just dropped Steve off at my father’s office. He worked for my dad. A few blocks before I got to Burrard Street, where I’d turn right to go to my office, I came upon a man lying in the street. I stopped my car, spoke to him, and agreed to give him a lift to St. Paul’s Hospital. I helped him into the car, got in and as soon as I closed my door, he pulled my head into his lap and brought a knife to my throat.
He had me drive into an open apartment garage, but it was full of cars and so he told me to drive to a parking lot off Beach Avenue that is right on the beach. He wanted $40.00. I only had about thirty bucks, and he just kept yelling about forty bucks, and he tore through my knapsack and the glove compartment. He was getting angrier and angrier.
Here’s a funny thing. While he was going ono about forty bucks, it made me think of Mathias and Fabien, the two children of my French teacher who invited me to live in her apartment. It was thanks to those young kids that I practiced a lot of my French. One day, Mat wanted ice cream, and I told him we didn’t have any. That did not stop him from demanding ice cream in a hissy fit. What I remember so vividly, is lifting him up to see inside the freezer and that there was no ice cream. I didn’t stop him. And I realized that was what this guy was like, and that it wouldn’t end until he got $40, and I didn’t have enough.
And then a city garbage truck arrived, and men hopped off their little outside-the-truck platforms to empty the beach litter barrels. And so, he did it again. He pulled my head down and put the knife at my throat and told me not to make a sound. But when he pulled me down, my arms were at my side and my left hand was inches from the door handle, so when 2 garbage men came up from the beach, I made my move.
I got out just as the truck pulled away with the two men on the back. I screamed at them for help, and they called out to me to call the police. I dreaded what was next, so I turned to the car and saw my assailant running up the hill at the far end of the parking lot. When I got in the car, I discovered he had taken my keys. My dad brought me the keys, I assured him that I felt fine after telling him the story, and I went to work.
When I got to work, there were all my coworkers. We were like a family at Opus. I ai remember saying, with a big smile on my face, “Have I got a story to tell you!”
We were like a family because we loved our jobs and our boss, the owner of the company. David was one of my best friends and just before I started to tell my story, I heard David come in downstairs and shout out in his charming British accent, ‘Hello!” And I lost it at that moment. I remember nothing, but my collapse prompted the police and an ambulance to come.
THE most fucking amazing part of this whole story is that what brought me back to functioning and consciousness was hearing this voice say, “Chris, I’m (I can’t remember his name). I’m a police officer and you were my teacher when I was in high school.”
And the point of the story is to describe my night last night. In the aftermath of the experience in the car, one lesson learned stands out: Shock—as in being ‘in shock’—is an amazing and wonderful thing. No body talks about it. To me, it’s a sacred thing because I believe it kept me going through the whole thing and got me to a safe place. When I. heard David call out on his arrival, I knew I was safe. He would look after me, and I fell apart. This is a theory of mine that accounts for the long gap between the incident and my emotional response.
It wasn’t shock that got me through yesterday morning’s board meeting. I was in a dangerous emotional state. I could feel it, so I stayed silent during the meeting, feeling absolutely devoid of confidence in their company. But when the agenda hit the communications button, I had to speak. It was the first time my fellow board members heard me stutter and see me twitch. All I heard from them and felt from them in the meeting was honey to this worker bee.
I am a person with a condition that wants me to be alone and only gently stimulated. Human interaction is high risk behavior for me, and I’m engaged with a complex social group as a board member. Talk about high risk. I’ve been questioning my capacity, feeling intellectually less capable. There’s been some rough emotional seas on this voyage with the board.
Dr. Shoja’s mantra for me was: “Frontal lobes, Chris! Frontal lobes!” I was to use my intellectual skills, to master my emotional doubts and fears.” I was to take charge and be captain of my ship. Rah rah! I always want to quit and I did again when the newsletter went out with mistakes.
When I clicked the ‘leave’ button on my keyboard after our online board meeting, I sat in my chair feeling that wonderful feeling of calm waters. Then I checked my email and there, waiting for me in my inbox when I left the meeting, was the perfect email from my friend Dianne. She said ( don’t think she’ll mind me sharing this):
“I just read your blog and wanted to say how sorry I am that you had that mishap with the unsaved changes to your doc. Of course it is not the end of the world but I it felt like it. I always hated failure, never expected it, was always knocked flat by it. We are lucky and also unlucky to be achievers. Sometimes it sucks. But of course the whole schmoz will be history in a few days and balance will return. Take care. You are loved.”
Life does not get better than that. I really heals me to hear a message like that. Fuck fortune tellers; it’s a true friend who understands you core sense of being. And love you.
All good you think?
Because it’s over, and that was the point of the story in the car. Last night was a bit of a festival of symptoms as I transition back to calm waters.
I watched two more episodes of Three Pines. I rarely love a series, but I love TP. Every patriotic gene in my body tingles when I watch it. I am deeply drawn to the French-Canadian accents. It’s been a lifelong passion. And it really feels like reparations are happening when I see an indigenous plot line tying the series together. It makes me proud to feel the presence of that culture in a story I’m loving. This is so, so, so far from Tonto (Jay Silverheels was a friend of my dad).
Anyway, a young First Nations lad in the plot dies, and I had a seizure. Everything was triggering me last night. The symptoms pass, I carry on. All afternoon I said to myself, “No one died.” I went to bed knowing that the next day would be even better, and it will end with a fun evening of pizzas and games with really lovely people, my neighbours.