I was walking down a normal block in a seemingly normal neighborhood, minding my own business. My car was parked there, and I was standing in front of it, digging into my jeans in search of the keys, when a person I wasn’t paying very much attention to came strolling down the sidewalk.

He was in his late twenties, wearing a hooded blue parka and light blue jeans, and appeared to be on his way to wherever it was he had to go. But when I looked up he looked straight at me, kept looking at me in fact, and when he got within arms reach I saw that in his right hand, pulled up around his chest, he held a black gun, pointed in my direction.

The man smiled a devilish smile, his teeth bright as anything I had ever seen before, and his eyes were wide, bloodshot. In a way he seemed incredibly happy, as if he were playing a kind of game, a simulation.

I froze, put my hands up — don’t shoot — and the man kept walking, slower now, turning his body as he inched by. We looked each other right in the eyes and in that moment I hoped he could see I was not a ghost or a machine, that I was just a man, flesh and blood, alive and breathing, no match for the power he held clutched tightly in his hand.

It had to have been only a split-second, a snapshot of history so short that in the narrative of my life that plays back now like film it would have barely filled a frame. And it was in this split second that his face dropped and his arms fell and like a predator sniffing prey he lost interest in the kill.

Then he looked up, his long arm extended and he shot me right in the face.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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