Wrong place, wrong time, wrong lens. My first time being shot at. 

August 27th, 2014, 4pm

Everyone remembers their first time. Except me.

There was the photo-story about gangs. I was in tight. Embedded before anyone used that term. We were friends actually. The time had been spent. The promises made. I returned with prints and said “Here, this is what I’m doing.”

And then night fell, and fell hard. Drinking. Forties. Room temp. Sitting around with nothing going down, no plan or need to do anything else. I built the essay in my mind as I looked around the room at the hard life falling into place. Always slightly on edge, and for good reason. I was white and solo and vulnerable to a change in the wind.

Black Ford LTD, throaty roar coming up the street, blacked out, no lights and pain behind the wheel. Just cruising but the lights go off and the pace is monitored carefully. Footsteps with urgency invade the space. “So and so is at such and such a park…..alone.” Mobilization happens quickly as it is decided I will be the one driving. I agree not knowing what I’m getting myself into.

Street to street, light to light, I never get out of third as the boys form a plan, speaking in code to keep my virgin ears so, so pure. Engine off, lights off and the walk begins. There are people everywhere. What are we doing here? What am I doing here? The wrong lens. God, not even close to the right lens. A little league game plays to the right and left.

Broken glass. Shattered. Drivers side window and the energy of the moment pulses out like the blast from Little Boy. Something is very, very wrong.

Tires smoking in panic. Doors open. Rounds slam past the feed jams and into the chamber and a sweaty finger finds its home on the trigger. Short, violent breath. Hold and squeeze. Full auto.

My vision is obscured by the power of the moment and my brains inability to process the relevant information. They are shooting. They are shooting at ME.

Lead on metal forms a chorus around me as everything goes dark. Completely and utterly dark. I’m gone.

When I wake I’m in fetal behind the wheel well of a Japanese economy next to a woman and child. She looks bored. The boy looks like he wants to get back in the game and I have no recollection of what happened.

Fifteen seconds of my life are gone. Taken from me by something far beyond my sheltered breeding. Fifteen seconds I will never have back or fully understand. What was I doing? Camera still in hand, with flash. Smart .Why not just wear Christmas lights and run serpentine across the field of fire?

I get it now. It took this for me to understand this life. This place and this near optionless life of the banger. Jesus Christ. It was just a show before. A masquerade party, but now I’m invested in an understanding I need to share. Only there are no images. My finger frozen. My mouth dry. Alone.

My first time.

David Wade, Philippe, Craig, Charlie and 3 others said thanks.

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Daniel Milnor

"Photographer at Large" for Blurb, Inc. Serial book, magazine and journal maker. @smogranch www.shifter.media

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