Excepted from my book Raised Catholic: A Healing Season Book
Chapter 8: Last Rites
In 1994, I was 24 and finally had my first apartment without a roommate. The place was an upper, and my friend (a lighting guy from a local theatre) rented the place below. Bob Smith (not his real name…and no he’s not a Catholic nun who asked me to change it) was doing lighting for a play I was producing.
I was down at his apartment going over the staging needs, as we would be opening the show in days. We were sitting on his couch…the kind of couch you pull off a curb if you’re a kid and put on the curb when you’ve grown up, when a knock came at the door.
It was a solid wrap. Firm.
“Who is it?” Bob shouted above the sounds of the Bob Marley Live in Concert video which played in the background.
“It’s Jim,” said the voice through the closed wooden door.
Bob, seeming to know this Jim, reached over me (this was a tiny studio apartment) to pull the door open. I was the first to see who was in the hall. It was not just Jim (I doubt his name was Jim. I know he was no nun) but Jim and five to eight of his friends, lined up down the hall. All wearing ski masks, with guns drawn. “Jim” was the first in the room. He covered my eyes with his hand. Why was his hand so soft, I thought? His eyes were so blue. What was going on?
“Put your head in the couch,” Jim ordered me. I did.
As the gang proceeded to turn the apartment upside down, Bob begged, pleaded.
“Oh, my God! Please don’t kill me! I’m so sorry! Take it! It’s all yours! I’m so sorry! Please don’t kill me.” He was screaming.
I looked up for a moment to get an idea of what was happening. Could I run? Could I hide?
As I took the tiniest peek, I saw Bob, with a pillow case over his head. Two men in ski masks pointing guns at Bob. One man in a ski mask, beating Bob. Some number of men in the only other room, flipping everything over. Two men in ski masks, guns trained on me.
“Put your head down! Don’t make me shoot you, woman!” one of the men barked. He meant it.
Oh my God, I thought. They were going to kill Bob! Why would they put a pillow case over his head if they were not going to kill him?
That’s when the panic set in. This was real. They were going to kill him. For some reason—I, to this day, have no idea why, and I never want to know—they were there to settle something big. Bob knew. He must have known, or what was “I’m so sorry!” about, right?
Then it hit me. If they killed Bob, they would have to kill me next. I’d seen them! I could ID them. Oh, my God. I was going to die tonight. I hoped they didn’t rape me before they killed me. But I mentally prepared, (as much as one can) to be raped…literally gang-raped. I started to pray in the way that I knew.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Try will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This didn’t seem to be working. My heart was not ready to die. I tried a different prayer, “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee…”
When Jim stopped the assault of Bob to quiet me,
his “SHUT UP!” was a cannon.
I fell silent. This was the hour of my death, I thought. What do I believe in? I thought. It’s time to decide, Shannyn. What do I believe in? Decide now. The best truth I could craft was this: I believe “in the light.”
(God from God. Light from Light. True God from true God.)
And so, I visualized the light, a tiny pin point of light, and I held it in my heart. Then, as quietly as I could, I visualized that light softly filling my chest, then my torso. Next, I sneaked a bit of the light down my arms, then legs and held it there until it felt steady. Next, I let that light ease its way into my hands and fingers, feet and toes.
Once my body was entirely filled with the light, I sent it quietly, as not to attract attention, out of the edges of my skin, till it was a glow around me, and held it there for a bit. Next, further…a bubble of light around the couch and held it there. Finally, I imagined the light spreading into the entire room…every corner, ceiling to floor, then around the corner to the only other room, where the gangsters were still busy digging through drawers and emptying cupboards.
I could hear the impact of Jim’s blows to Bob’s body. I could hear Bob breaking, flesh and bone. I thought he might skip the gun and beat him to death. At the very instant that I could see the entire room filled with light, Jim stopped.
“Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s GO!” he shouted to the men in masks.
“But the…” one objected.
“Go! Go!” Jim shouted.
“Do you want us to grab the…” another shouted back.
“I said GO!”
Jim was heard and his orders were matched with the obedient sound of tennis shoes on dusty floors moving to the door by my still-buried head, and then out the door and down the hall.
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience, lady,” said Jim.
Then the click of the door.
They were gone.
This is the reason I will never feel the need to carry a gun.
This is one reason I feel the need to carry the light.
You can find Raised Catholic and Shannyn’s other books at http://www.thehealingseason.com, Amazon, Kindle and where fine books are sold.