By Jamil Rashad Ragland
Only after Tania saw the bone protruding from the man’s leg did she feel bad. It hadn’t punctured the skin, but the unnatural bulge below his knee was unmistakable. He was curled up into himself on the concrete, wailing in agony as his hands hovered near the broken leg. She watched him for a moment. The gun that he was carrying sat in the shadows cast by the buildings surrounding them. It looked like a toy to her, and she couldn’t believe such a thing had the power to take someone’s life. No, it didn’t. It couldn’t shoot itself, she realized. Only the man holding the gun had that power. The man whose leg she’d just shattered, who she was feeling sorry for now.
A few meters away, another many was lying down as well. There was a pool of blood forming under his face. It was pouring from his temple, where the handle of the gun had fractured his skull and tore a gash in his skin. The man groaned. He was alive, barely conscious. She thought about bringing him to the hospital herself. But wouldn’t they ask questions? Where did you find him? What happened to him? Who are you? She pictured herself standing there in front of the nurses, her afro puffs covered in sweat and blood from the stranger she’d carried across town, struggling to find the answers to questions she didn’t have.
I was just trying to help, she’d start with. She’d explain that she’d stayed after school for theater practice- the premier of Anansi the Spider was only a week away, and she was playing Osebo the Leopard, and they’d been rehearsing every day for two weeks straight- and was taking a ten minute break to grab a zebra cake and a fifty cent juice, the blue kind she liked. She’d tell them that she went to that corner store after school all the time, and she knew the old Jamaican lady with the short, gray dreadlocks by name although she could never remember what it was, but she saw something strange just as she crossed the street in the alley next to the store, a quick flash of motion that caught her eye and drew her. She’d say that she reached the alley in time to see the white guy with the shaggy blonde beard and light green hoodie bring his arm down full force, slamming the handle of his pistol into the side of another man’s face. She’d describe the sick cracking sound she heard because the man was too stunned by the blow to cry out.
I didn’t know what was going on, she’d continue, until the man with the gun looked back at her and yelled Who the fuck are you? before lifting the gun and pointing it at her. Then she’d describe the moment of fear she felt, like an icicle through her heart, as the man told her to get the fuck out of there. Then she would tell them how after that moment of fear, she felt a surge of adrenaline, and the sudden snap of irrational anger that bubbled up inside of her right before she knew she was going to hurt somebody. The rage coursed through her, melting the ice in her heart and filling her arms and legs with fire, and that it was all she could do to prevent herself from striking out and hitting the man with the force of a freight train and smashing every bone in his pathetic body into dust.
So I settled for his leg, she would say. She would explain that she horse-kicked him in the shin, so fast he hadn’t even been able to perceive her motion. He only saw a blur, and then heard the same kind of snap he’d inflicted on his victim before pain exploded across his senses, drowning out all the sights and sounds around him as he collapsed on the mess of bone fragments which could no longer support his weight. The gun fell from his hand, bouncing harmlessly away. She wouldn’t tell them what she felt at that moment though. Through the anger that still pulsed with the beating of her heart, the mix of fear and excitement from having a weapon pointed at her, she could feel it. A glowing ember, different from the anger, but nearly as intense. It was the feeling of striking back, of avenging oneself for a wrong committed. It was pleasure. She wouldn’t tell them that she’d said Fuck you. Point a gun at me? FUCK YOU.
She wasn’t going to explain any of that, because she wasn’t going to bring the man to the hospital. She could; making it across town to the hospital and back to rehearsal wouldn’t be a challenge, yet it would invite more questions. She’d been very careful about her flying, only doing so at night and far outside the city. She didn’t know what anyone would say to her if they saw a teenager cruising above their heads carrying a man twice her size, but she didn’t imagine it would be good. Tania looked down at the man again. His breathing was slow and steady. The blood was staining his grey shirt. She reached down into his pocket and found his cell phone, a beat up flip phone that was cracked across the screen. She dialed 911, and placed the phone down next to him. The police would arrive soon enough.
Eight minutes had passed. Ms. Carillo wouldn’t start the rehearsal if Osebo wasn’t there. As she turned to head back across the street, she glanced down at the man with the broken leg again. He’d stopped screaming, and was instead sobbing without tears. The anger had passed, the fire burnt out and spent. Tania’s limbs felt empty, and the man’s sobs annoyed her more with each wretched sound that escaped his lips. She looked at the protruding bone in his leg, and for a moment, felt regret. Like the anger, that faded away too as she hurried into the auditorium where Ms. Carillo was shouting at the other teenagers to get back on stage.
But the pleasure remained.