I was in a car chase once…

I’ve never been in a gun fight. Ninjas have never jumped out of the shadows to attack me. Not once has a mercenary hit team tried to take me out only to have me turn the tables on them with my lethal skills. I have been in a car chase, though.

It happened while I was staying with my dad outside of Houston, TX. That’s appropriate, because almost everything insane/cool I’d done in my teenage years happened there. I washed cars with future NBA players, broke into private docks with my dad to repo offshore racing boats, and once had a picture taken (at age fourteen) with about twenty exotic dancers. Somehow that picture never made it into my mother’s hands.

The said car chase happened the summer after my junior year of high school. I spent much of that trip hanging out with my step-cousin, Brandon. Brandon and I got along just fine though we were wired in very different ways. Despite the things written above, I was laid back and didn’t like to cause waves if I didn’t have to. Brandon, on the other
hand, had a wild streak in him. It wasn’t constant or I wouldn’t have hung out with him for more than a day or two. When the mood hit him, however, it could cause problems.

I was seventeen at the time and he was either fifteen or sixteen without a license, as I drove us everywhere in a red Duster off my dad’s lot.  We went out almost every night for a week.  On each of those evenings, Brandon would partake of his favorite activity: hanging out the window, sticking up his middle finger at a passing car, and screaming “Fuck you!”

I can’t put into words the joy doing this brought him. I wasn’t so enthused but tolerated it.

One night we go out to some theater close to Houston proper to see The Last Action Hero.  We headed to a Whataburger (a Texas fast food chain) afterwards. After we sat down to eat, Brandon noticed something behind me and his eyes went wide.

“What?” I asked.
“There’s a gang in here.”
“A gang?  As in a real gang?”
“Yes.”

I tried my best to look behind me without looking like I was looking behind me, which is impossible. It didn’t matter, as I was well beneath the notice of the five or six young men who were hanging out in the seats against the back wall. I’d never seen a real gang before but because of movies like Colors, I expected them to be color coded. They
were and the color was black. Most had black ball hats and I remember one had a black bandanna around his head.

I may have spent a good deal of time in Houston but I was still a Marine City kid. Being that close to a gang was both cool and scary, which is a feeling you love at that age and avoid in adulthood. By that point you’ve lived long enough to not care about cool and know it’s scary you should pay attention to.

They left before we did and I finished eating without giving them much more thought.  As we pulled out of the parking lot into the wide, four-lane road, Brandon spotted a car coming the other way and started rolling down his window with a big grin on his face. He hung half his body out, flew the finger, and yelled “Fuck” with great gusto followed by a weak “you”.

“That was the gang,” he said as he flopped back into the seat.

I looked behind me to see their car pull a fast U-turn and accelerate right at our rear end, flashing its brights. This is how I learned to pay attention to scary.

“Floor it!” Brandon yelled and I did with no further prompting. I hoped they just wanted to scare us and laugh while we fled but they hit the gas and stayed right on us.

I didn’t know the area at all but Brandon did and he yelled directions to me as we darted down streets and around blocks without losing our pursuers. The whole thing is a blur to me now but I have a clear memory of flying down a service drive behind a Kmart plaza with their headlights bobbing behind us. We eventually wound up back on
the road we started from.  

Brandon pointed to the expressway on-ramp in the distance and I gunned it, hoping maybe they’d give up if they saw we were getting the hell out of Dodge. I started down the curving ramp and saw they were still after us.

“The other side,” Brandon said, pointing a frantic finger at the off-ramp curving the opposite way. I yanked to the left and went over the wide curb separating the two. As I pulled back onto the road, I saw them continue down the on-ramp to the expressway and away from us.

The experience was everything Brandon could’ve hoped for. He laughed the whole ride home. Part of me wishes I could say that I, as the level headed one, realized how close we’d come to serious trouble and shamed him. That would be a lie. I felt the same surge of triumph and we talked about it constantly for several days after, though never in front of my dad.

I don’t know what would’ve happened if they’d caught up with us. I don’t even know if they really were a gang.  Again, as a Marine City kid I’m not an expert on these things.  One thing I do know is the story could’ve ended as a cautionary tale. The fact that I got away still makes me smile, even though I should know better.

The following October, my dad shipped up the same red Duster for me to drive, not knowing how I had already broken it in.  It was my car through college.

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