Dear Ian,

It’s Saturday evening and you’re treating yourself to a beer at a local pub in your neighborhood. You almost didn’t make it out — with no one in town, you were kinda feeling tired but also kinda feeling the itch to get out of the house. Why not just treat yourself to one? You had a lot to reflect about: you could sip on a cold brew, sit at the bar, socialize if you felt like it and most of all, pull out your notebook and let your pen take hold like you’ve been meaning to do for months. You did, in fact, have quite a bit to process.

You take the final sip of your sour ale (you dabbled, occasionally, wanting to try new varietals), call for the check, sign: it’s been a good visit. You could’ve gone for round two but you’re feeling suddenly motivated — the night is still young. It’s just past 7 and you already know your next stop. Why not walk? It’s still dusk and only one hour earlier you’d so thoroughly enjoyed playing witness to the sky-shatteringly gorgeous sunset, that blazing orange ball descending into storm-grey clouds, heavy with potential for rain.

You hop onto the road. The air smells fresh and the streets glisten with moisture and you set off, elated to be outdoors and recalling its essence to your pulse. As you walk you pass some locals, out for their evening stroll along the lake. You breathe deeply, satisfied — you like your new neighborhood easily enough.

You pass a woman with running pants and a white hooded sweatshirt, paused. You make slight eye contact and as you pass, she asks the time. You know this off the top of your head because you’d left only a few minutes earlier and had checked your phone in the bar — 7:15, you say, unhesitatingly. You keep walking and she asks if you might have a phone to borrow so she can make a call. You immediately say no and keep walking, immediately feeling that tension inside — that tension when you know you’re lying, the tension that’s tinged with guilt for an impulsive dishonesty fueled by jadedness. Would you have lent her your phone, Ian? It’s only 7. Would you have paused to help? It’s just a phone. She’s a woman. What if she really needed it? What if you were a woman, or handicapped — would you have done it? Does it make it different?

You try and make peace with your lie, telling yourself you’d’ve acted differently under different circumstances — if it were light out, if you weren’t alone, if you felt more comfortable with your surroundings. Right? Does that make it okay?

You keep walking, glancing over your shoulder as you recenter, noticing the woman now walking in the same direction you are. Funny — perhaps she found out where she needed to go. Or maybe she’s angry because she knows you’re lying because who, these days, doesn’t have a phone? You keep walking but slightly faster, glancing back again and seeing her having turned back around toward the other direction. You continue, enjoying the evening lights’ glow reflecting on the surface of the lake, like glass.

What a ride it’s been, Ian — all the serendipitous moments, the decisions and the paths you’ve taken, all to land you here, now.

Your stride takes you along the ellipse of the lake and back toward the main avenue, home of your next pub’s destination — 5 minutes. You see the theater across the street, beaming with lights and you’re yanked, your bag is yanked and suddenly you’re yanked and you turn around, woman with white sweatshirt is now yanking your bag, telling you quietly to give it to her to give her the bag. You look around — wildly — where are the people? You consider running, glancing down and noticing your own handicap — you can’t even run, Ian. You can’t even cry out. You see her hand at your stomach, gun at point, and she tells you give her the bag — give it to her or she’ll kill you.

Oh my God, Ian, you’ll give her the bag. You don’t want to give it but you don’t want to die and you give her the bag and — — off she moves, like lightning, swift into the car that had silently pulled up next to you and taking off and you desperately try to remember every detail, every aspect of the car, paralyzed, and it’s gone.

It’s gone, Ian, and it’s just you, yourself and oh, thank God — that goddamned phone. And now there’s people around and no one saw and no one cares, no one notices. But why should they? It’s 7 and it’s dark, and they’re alone and we’re all alone and it doesn’t matter if I’m white and she’s black or if I’m wearing black and she’s wearing white. We’re all just here, fighting to survive and all she’s gonna get is a journal of my thoughts, a few blocked credit cards and a Michigan ID.