The second jolt to the senses happened shortly after my failure to support the injured man. The year would have been somewhere around 1987, and I had been to visit a friend up the road for a chat. As I skipped happily up the front steps and into our house the pleasant bitter taste of coffee still lingered in my mouth. I opened the front door to see the contents of my handbag strewn across the dining room table. Puzzled, I looked around for our cat, wondering if the bag had contained something that might appear flavoursome to the feline palate.
I scanned the lounge and caught my breath. My heart started jumping around in my chest. Gripping the back of the corner armchair were my yellow washing up gloves. The coffee turned to vinegar as bile rose through my constricting throat. My tongue stuck to the roof of my dry mouth as if glued with peanut butter. I stared in horror as the top of a black curly head appeared from behind the chair. Then I noticed our suitcase open in the middle of the floor. It was full to overflowing, and right on top was Michael’s sharp fishing knife.
I stood petrified. The suitcase was midway between the intruder and me, which was about the same distance as my feet from the front door. But I could not move. My brain was unable to tell my feet how to get to the door. A rasping gurgle filled the air, which seemed to come from somewhere inside my throat.
The intruder leapt towards me, and somehow in my panic, I found myself outside on the patio, still attempting a scream that would not come. He grabbed my shoulders and shook me, perhaps to stop the weird noise, or perhaps intending more violence. Seeing I was paralysed from shock, he took the opportunity to run, still wearing the yellow gloves. As I watched him go I could taste the salty tears of relief.
Later, when I was reporting the case to the police, I asked what I should have done under those circumstances. The white policeman looked me in the eye and said ‘Madam, you shoot him.’