A man threatened to shoot me today. It’s not nearly as dramatic as it sounds, but it did steel my heart none-the-less.
I was walking into town to post a parcel to my sister in Yorkshire; it’s her birthday on Sunday, and I wanted to make sure she had it before hand. The weather has been gray lately, the Easter sunshine taken by strong winds, thick clouds and nightly downpours. I could see, as I stepped out into the world, donned with a coat, that it would rain, but I hoped if I was quick enough I could be back before the skies opened. It rained in the early hours hard enough to wake me, so I thought it could hold a little longer despite the darkness of the low-lying clouds.
I had passed through the subway, and the building where I used to reside, and just I was coming into town I ran into a friend. As is normal, I stopped to converse with Berty (that’s the friend), discovering he had just been to a job interview, and had with him a portfolio of his photography work (he’s a photographer). As we were chatting a man approached us; he had on a camo-backpack, and an urgent expression, and exclaimed to us something about, and I quote, ‘doves and their shite‘. After a few more random sentences, he started to walk off, but startled as we were, we watched him go, and he turned around. He closed his hand into a gun shape, two fingers forming a pretend barrel, and the third held steady where there would be a trigger; this alone is a fearful gesture, but then he proceeded to load with the other hand, slipping a fake bullet into the chamber and knocking back the safety. Then he fired; one at me, and once at Berty, mimed to us as he did so.
“I’ll shoot you,” he said to us, his mouth as clear in his silence as if he had been shouting in our ears. “I’ll take a gun and shoot you, bitch.”
Then he turned and walked away, staring at us momentarily through the corner of his eye. I know he must not be entirely sane, anyone who acts that way to complete strangers for no particular reason must be slightly off-kilter. Still, I wonder if he meant it; I wonder if he thought we were some people he knew, who had caused him anger, who he truly wanted to harm. And I thought, if he had had a real gun, concealed in his coat, would we really have been shot. Was it only the difference between metal and flesh that spared us? I can’t get the image of him out of my mind, of that moment he turned away with those determined eyes, and I worry there’s more to this than just today, but I tend to worry about too much.
Even now, I am set with an unease.
As I came out of the post-office, I met the rain, no longer able to hold itself above the city, it came down in a straight drove uninterrupted because there was no wind.