It was a warm spring evening in Columbus Georgia. The winter had been wet. We'd even had snow at one point. But this particular day had been sunny, and all of Columbus seemed to be basking in these last moments of it. Myself included.
When my family first moved to Georgia in the summer of 81, we found a Catholic church and began attending Sunday mass each week. Eventually, we decided to attend on Saturday evenings instead because the church folk group sang during that mass. Soon after, my stepmother and sisters joined the folk group. This lead to the five of us going to church at different times to attend the same service. The women would leave an hour early to practice with the folk group. My father and I would then join them for mass, sitting in the nearest pew to the folk group.
After my father died, I had to leave early for church each week with the women. They would practice with the folk group, and I would... well, I'd be bored until mass began.
There was a playground in a field on the far side of the church parking lot. Since the weather was wonderful on this particular evening, I was sent out to play.
What I really wanted was a place to be alone. I was eleven years old. My father had died barely a month previous, and one of my two sisters had moved away a few months before that - returning to live with our mother; a woman who was a complete stranger to me at that point, as I hadn't seen her in years. I was feeling so lost as my little family fell apart. Five had become three.
I was very sad.
Even with all of that on my mind, it was hard to be sad on an evening such as this. The weather was spectacular, and joggers were out in full force, running through the field at the corner of which sat the playground I was supposed to be playing in.
I was playing, I suppose. I swung on the swings a bit, but mostly, I was quietly, peacefully, watching the world go by. I watched as so many silly joggers came trotting by, pretending to be having the time of their lives. I could tell most of them hadn't been running since last fall. They looked out of shape. Struggling. Sometimes awkward. Especially those two over there.
"Look at those idiots," I thought.
Most of the joggers I'd seen were wearing track suits. Sweat pants, sweatshirts... that sort of thing. And the two joggers who'd caught my eye fit that description - but they also wore oversized sunglasses and some sort of bandanas covering their hair. They looked ridiculous running like that. The fat one looked like she hadn't ever been running in her life! She was almost gasping for air as they shouted back and forth to each other.
"God I have such a common name" I thought as pretended not to be listening to their muttering.
"Bobby, we've got to get you back to the doctor!"
"Bobby we're running late!"
"Bobby come on! You're not suppose to be away!"
"Bobby the doctor's waiting for us!"
"What the heck? They're both named Bobby?" I knew my name was common, but that was just weird. "Geez, how many of us are there? And if the doctor's waiting for one of you, why are you out here?" This was very odd. "People in Georgia are goofy", I thought.
At that point, I realized I was staring. It's not polite to stare, but how could I not? These two women looked bizarre, and they were running right by me.
"Bobby! Come on!"
Oh God. They've got ME.
"HELP! I DON'T KNOW YOU!!!" I screamed. "HELLLP!!!! LEGGOOO!!!! HELLLLPPPPP!!!! I DON'T KNOW YOU!!!!!"
But, as they dragged me kicking and screaming across the church parking lot, I realized I did know them. One of them anyway.
It all happened so fast.
"SOMEBODY!!! HELP!!! PLEASE!!!"
What happened to all of the joggers? The actual joggers? And what about all of the people arriving at church for mass? How can an eleven year old kid be dragged across a playground in broad daylight by two people dressed like THAT and not one person do a god damned thing? The women kept shouting gibberish about me being late for some doctor appointment until they'd forced me, kicking and screaming, into the back seat of their car.
It all happened so fast.
As we peeled away, I knew I'd never see Columbus Georgia again.
"So you're my mother" I thought as she told the fat one to get the map and find a highway.
I cried as I pictured my stepmother frantically running out to the playground in hopes of finding me there.