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The Blue & Gray Press | December 16, 2017

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That’s what she said

I hate walking around outside at night.

Whether I’m in a group downtown or going for a contemplative stroll alone, I’m terrified. This probably isn’t a unique feeling, given that young women walking alone at night are often, you know, never heard from again or whatever, but it’s not even abduction or rape that scares me.

Creepy old men shouting obscenities and stationary white vans with no windows don’t make me feel half as nervous as I do when I hear the sound of a car driving up behind me.

I just know that one day I’m going to get shot in a drive-by.

As soon as I hear a car approach, my shoulders tense, my heart beats faster and the hair on the back of my neck stands straight up. Sometimes I stop where I am, clench my fists, close my eyes and think:

Damn. This is it.I inhale and wait. There’s a burning sensation square between my shoulder blades just as the car pulls up next to me. Somehow I’ve decided that’s where I’m going to be shot.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no basis for this fear. I grew up in Virginia Beach, where, yeah, a high school football player was shot in a drive-by outside of a nightclub, but Virginia Beach is a big city, my school didn’t have a football team and I’ve never been to a nightclub.

Everything I learned about drive-bys I learned from the Wikipedia articles on Biggie and Tupac (R.I.P.) and, of course, the iconic scene in “Save the Last Dance,” which scares me even more. On one hand, being shot by a complete stranger on a joyride would totally suck, but what if one of my enemies shoots me?

I have enemies! And they read this paper! Oh god. I’m giving them ideas.

This fear has gotten so out of hand that I’ve passed it on to my roommate just by talking about it so much. Now she also lives in constant fear every time she walks outside after 7 p.m.

Most drive-bys occur between 7 p.m. and midnight, according to research done by the Violence Policy Center in 2006. In case you were wondering. The same study, “Drive-by America,” also offers a state-by-state breakdown of the number of shootings in each state.

Virginia was near the bottom with only (only?) 10 reported drive-bys in 2006, but, given that everything else has gone to shit, that number’s probably at least tripled by now.

Deep down I know this fear is what my mother likes to call “irrational.” It doesn’t really inhibit me from living my life. I mean, I still dance like no one is watching and all of that.

But, as I prepare to spend the summer working in Texas, the state with the third highest number of drive-by shootings, I can’t help but wonder if this is the last thing I’ll ever write.