Joe and I saw Delbert McClinton Friday night. The show was just great! Delbert's voice is more gravelly (gravel-ier?) and his range is not what it used to be - he's almost 79, after all - but he can still sing some blues. The band was tight and terrific, especially the horn players. No, strike that - all the musicians were amazing.
But this post is not about the concert. It's about something that happened after the concert.
Friday night was cold and very windy, the moon just visible in a clearing sky. We had to walk about a half mile to get to the car, down poorly lit side streets. We held hands and walked briskly. I was hyper-alert, because I am always hyper-alert when I walk down lonesome streets late at night, whether I'm alone or not.
The wind picked up, and then I heard footsteps, running hard up to us from behind.
Just like that, fear crashed through me and it was December, 1972, and the men who raped me were running up behind me, one second away from grabbing my shoulder. I jerked my head around - I had to see who was there so that I could... I don't know, prepare?
No one was there.
And in the next instant, I realized that what I had heard was not the sound of people running; it was a flag flapping in the wind, loudly and crisply.
Joe felt me start and held my hand tighter. "What's the matter?" he asked.
And then I could breathe, and it was March, 2019, and I said, "The flag - it sounded like someone was running up behind us."
The flag flapped again, and the ropes clanked against the flagpole, and Joe held my hand tighter, and I kept breathing. He didn't say anything else, but he knew, as soon as I said it, what it was. We kept on walking, and turned down the next street, and there was the car. We yakked about the concert, and how great it was, and then we were home.
I talked about it, finally, last night at dinner, in a well-lit brewpub, because I finally felt like I could put the experience into words. Talking brought it into the light, and now I don't have to carry it anymore.
But I know that there will be other times that I will hear footsteps that aren't there, because that is the nature of trauma, even after 47 years. When you least suspect it, there it is.