This early morning, I woke up thinking of something that happened 33 years ago, something that could have changed my life in the way that Elizabeth Smart's life and Jaycee Dugard's lives were changed. Even at the time, I knew it, and even now, it wakes me up from a sound sleep.
At about 10 pm one evening in Orinda, one of my good friends and I set off from a friend's party. It had been a girl party, wild with laughter and lots of pizza. We were both 15, sophomores in high school, headed back home, even though it was a very long walk. Neither set of our parents could pick us up, and though we bemoaned the hike up the hill past the country club and then up a few more hills to our houses, we'd done this before. Parents didn't drive as much as they do now, to everything, for everything. My friend and I once had to navigate our way back to Orinda from Walnut Creek once, no parents willing or available to pick us up after we did some shopping (we took a cab to the edge of town and walked the rest).
But this night, our parents were out. It was a Saturday, and we started down the very dark street that skirted the edge of the country club. We were nervous about the dark and the cars, hugging the edge of the road, no sidewalks in this old town with the streets named in a language few of us pronounced correctly.
Something made me turn, though, the sound of a car slowing down, and I saw the image that wakes me up. A young man jumping out of an open van door. A blond man with wild curly hair, an open shirt, tan pants, heavy shoes.
Without thinking, I yelled, "Run," and my friend and I ran so fast, headed up toward a streetlight and a house. We could hear the man behind us. There was no laughing. This was no prank. No joke. We tore up a driveway and jumped a fence, the second time I'd done that in my life, the first being when a German Shepard chased me while I was running.
We heard the man on the other side of the fence--the rustle of bushes, the heavy breathing of someone who'd chased two girls down a road--and my friend pulled me along the other side, so that we found a way into another yard, up and over another fence. We hunkered down, hearts, heads pounding, listening for the man who wanted us.
Time went by. We heard the man, and then we didn't. But we were afraid to leave the yard, so we waited. Finally, we heard a car in the driveway of the second house, and we peeked over the fence. Two adults returning home, a man, and a woman, both shocked silent by our story. From their kitchen, we called our parents. Of course, no one was home right away, and we sat in their living room for a few minutes before trying again. Finally, success, and my parents came down and picked us up, dropping off my friend, and then taking me home, the story over.
It never occurred to anyone to call the police. At that time, Orinda was patrolled only by a Sheriff who drove in from wherever they hung out--Martinez. Orinda had a murder a decade and only a few robberies, so no permanent police force until sometime in the 80's. I went to bed and woke up and went on with the rest of my life.
But on a dime, in an instant, just like that, everything could have been different, even if it only lasted a night. Nothing good was going to come of that van, than man, maybe especially the man behind the wheel, the one who hunted us down and set the other upon us. My friend and I could have been victim to all number of things, but we ran. We ran as fast as I've ever run. We hid and we waited, and now, 33 years later, I'm proud of us, and so glad that we had the chance to live out life as we did, no van in the past, no story other than the one above to haunt us.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org