When I turned behind me to look down Magnolia, I saw a figure in a hooded olive drab military-style parka, just like the one that Dad has hanging from a hook in the garage, running like hell down the street.
Whoever he was, he was good.
The soft chenille scarf I'd had wrapped around my neck he caught when he jerked my purse off my shoulder and just kept on running.
In a jacket that read "I'm not Dead, I'm Metaphysically Challenged", my friend Ami took off after him, but he was gone from sight only a moment later.
"I'm sorry, Corrie," she tells me as she catches up with me, out of breath from her sprint, "He was too fast...I just couldn't catch him."
I scream and curse as we walk back to her house together.
No one looks out their window or opens a door to see what's going on. I understand how Kitty Genovese was killed by collective apathy.
A few weeks later, I start getting copies of the checks written out in my name in the mail, as I had requested from my bank. KFC. The Mustard Seed. Pizza Pipeline. From the carbon in my checkbook, they've tried to copy my signature. Badly.
I respond to the nastygrams from the collection agencies with a photocopied letter from my bank that says I was mugged and I'm not responsible for any charges incurred. Gradually, they stop.
And up until about two and a half years ago, I didn't give it another thought.
At least not until the letter came in the mail.
The letter that told me I owed $750 to Qwest for an unpaid phone bill from 2004.
And when I called the number, I was spitting mad.
"Calm down, honey," my husband tells me. We've been married less than a month.
So much has changed since that November night in 2003.
I got divorced. I fell in love with The Wrong Guy. I fell in love with Another Wrong Guy. I met my husband one night on Livejournal on a hot summer's night in August. We moved in together in February of 2007, after I relocated thousands of miles to Tucson from Spokane. And we had a small, casual, intimate wedding with our closest family and friends at the Tropicana in Las Vegas just over two years after our first hello online.
"What the hell is this?" I explode at the poor customer service rep at the other end of the phone. I'm on my pink Razr while I talk to him, and I'm pacing back and forth in our room, mad as a hornet. "I don't owe ANY money to Qwest!"
"Ma'am," he starts, "I understand that you're upset, but let's just take a moment to calm down so we can discuss this rationally?"
I take a deep breath. And then another. And since I work in customer service and I hate it when people go off on me like that, I apologize.
"It's perfectly okay," he tells me. "Now I'm showing that this goes back to 2004 at an address at South Riverton Avenue in Spokane, WA, back in 2004?"
That's when I lose it. The rage takes an abrupt 360 to tears.
I slump down on the couch. All the fire has gone out of me, and all I can do is cry.
I thought this was over, I think to myself. Why now?
"I," I start, "I was a victim of identity theft back in 2003. My purse was stolen. I was mugged. I'm not responsible for this. I did not do this."
"I'll get this right off for you," he tells me. And I hear the sincere empathy in his tone, and I wonder if this happened to him too. Or his mother. Sister. Wife. To somebody he loves.
Never once in a million years would I have dreamt I'd live through that kind of nightmare.
It happens all the time.
It could happen to you.
It happened to me.