I wanted to take Kristen to Vermont to show her where I’d gone to boarding school. I was entirely comfortable with hitchhiking and mentioned my plans to Keyo, but he became concerned. Keyo, I said, I’ve always hitchhiked and enjoyed it. I’ve met some incredibly good people that way. I’m a good judge of character. I know who to trust and how to talk my way out of trouble.
He knew he wasn’t going to change my mind so he pulled me gently over to his pack. Karen, I want you to carry my knife. If anyone gives you trouble, you’ll have it to protect yourself. You won’t have to use it, but wear it on your belt and when people see it, they’ll know you mean business. I laughed, Yes, and when they ask me what I do for a living, I’ll say, I’m a spiritual teacher and here is my switch blade knife. He insisted. I took the knife to make him feel better and headed out the next day.
The knife was big and deadly, like nothing I’d ever seen. I pushed a button and a long sharp blade sprang into action. The metal shone of polished silver and frightened even me. I fastened it to my belt, like Keyo had recommended and prepared for our trip.
It began the next morning when a small pick-up pulled over to give us a ride and a policeman materialized from nowhere. He peered in the driver’s window and delivered a lecture about delivering us safely to our destination. No foul play, he warned. The driver was put out. Man, I stop to do somebody a favor and the next thing you know, I’m being pulled over and treated like a criminal. I apologized and we went safely on our way. We had two more short rides and then climbed into a car driven by two young men, who talked about the Mafia like it was the Boys Club.
We talked easily, laughed and seemed to have a lot in common. They lived near by and offered an evening meal, shelter for the night and a swim in the pool. It sounded good, so we agreed. The car left the highway and threaded along a tall cornfield, loose gravel pounding the window. Dust blocked my vision. When we reached the house, Kristen and I climbed down from the cab. The boy’s mother came out, asking who we were and where we had come from. When they explained that we were hitchhikers, an already heated conversation exploded. It was in Italian, so I don’t know what was said, but certainly got the drift. It was something like, these people are scum, get them out of here.
One of the men broke away and said, I apologize for my mother. She is very old fashioned, but it’s ok for you to be here. His mother was heavy set, with thick black hair pulled away from her face, and a mind that measured the world in threats and dangers. This may not be a good idea, I said. No, no! He insisted. It’s late, we’ll swim and then you can stay in the guest house above the garage. You’ll be fine here, don’t mind my mother. I minded his mother a lot and so did he.
None-the-less, we changed into our suits and cooled off in the pool. It was a nice contrast to standing in the hot sun and being bathed in car exhaust. One of the boys went into the field and picked fresh corn. We tore back golden husks and ate it sweet and raw, while lingering in the pool. The sun was going down when we climbed out. I made my way to the changing house, put my hand on the door knob and turned it hard, but it didn’t open. I pushed again. That’s odd, I thought, I must have locked it by mistake. I turned around to ask for help and discovered that the boys had been sent into the house on an errand – their mother was standing in back of me.
She grabbed my arm and led me to a bench, I have locked the door, she told me. You can not enter. You must leave my house at once. Do not harm my boys. You are a mother, you know what I mean. She pointed to my clothes, which she’d piled on the ground outside, then lifted the knife from its holder. You are a dangerous woman and must leave my house at once.
I was speechless. I’d never been seen as a dangerous person and the idea that I might over power her sons with a knife was incredible. Her sons emerged from the house once again, and Italian words flew hot and fast. They stood nose to nose, each pleading their case in shouts and bursts of emotion, without anyone being heard.
One of the boys broke away, grabbed my clothes and showed us to the guest house. It will be all right, he assured us. It’s too late to leave. Rest well and go in the morning. Kristen and I looked at each other in bewilderment, as we hung our wet suits on the shower and talked about the events of the day. We were settling in for bed, when a car came screeching to a halt outside the window. Doors sprang open in unison. Six large Italian men got out, all of them carrying guns. The boy who had shown us to the guest house flew up the stairs.
I’m sorry, you’ll have to leave now, he said gasping for breath. You’ll be all right, Momma has sent some friends to make sure you go back to the highway. We didn’t even retrieve our suits from the shower wall, just grabbed our belongings as we were hurried out the door.
Kristen and I sat in the dark along the road, glad to be gone. I thought about throwing the knife away, but knew it was expensive and that Keyo would want it back. We cuddled together on my suitcase and sang songs, while we waited for some sign of life in the traffic lane.
We were picked up moments later by a man who was on his way home to his four children. He was generous and kind, invited us to stay the night and we accepted. We climbed the stairs to a guest bedroom, pulled back covers on a queen size bed and quickly fell asleep. Only I didn’t stay asleep. I tossed and turned and dreamed violent dreams of people being stabbed by knives. I was so angry with myself for agreeing to carry a weapon, because it was doing the opposite of what it was intended to do; it was endangering us.
In the morning, over a breakfast of orange juice and muffins, I learned that our host was vacationing with his children, because his wife had been brutally murdered only one month before. I offered my sympathies and asked how she’d died. Someone broke into our home while I was away, he said with tears welling in his eyes, and stabbed her to death. I listened to his sorrow and realized that my dreams had not been produced by anxiety, but were images resulting from very real terror.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We were delivered safely to Vermont, walked around the school grounds, looked up acquaintances and got a ride back to Boston with an old friend, who had career-shuttled from musician to CPA. Upon returning I looked up Keyo and delivered his knife, glad to be free of it! I had learned an important lesson about the energy objects hold and attract, and that my personal safety had more to do with my outlook and essence, than it had to do with carrying weapons.