My first dodge dart was blue- grey. I bought it for $500- during the summer after I graduated from college. A nice couple that was about to birth their first baby was upgrading to a dart with brakes. They had named the car “spot” as it was speckled with freckles of rust. It eventually died a natural death. The second dart was shiny, black, and sporty with only 2 doors. Stylistically speaking, it was not my thing (too slick), and also it had some issues, so my father found me the third dart, which was from New Jersey, and thus was mostly rust free. It was a minty green and in relatively good working order. I loved that car and drove it south from Boston one August to camp on the North Carolina coast with my boyfriend, photographing its gleaming green boxiness against the sand and crystal clear sky.
One September morning, after returning to dreary Boston and to grad school, I parked on Huntington Avenue. While mindlessly filling the parking meter I was approached by a man. Older, scruffy, clearly disconnected, pretty well crazed. Initially I thought he’d ask me for money, which of course I did not have any extra, I was after all a student driving a 20 year old car. I was therefore confused when he told me to get in the car and give him the keys; this was before carjacking had become really popular. But he had a knife and he pushed me into the front passenger seat, took my keys, got in himself and started driving down the street. Now, if you can picture Huntington Avenue in Boston, the main thing that you’ll see is the trolley tracks, and indeed the man turned left starting to cross the tracks, at which point he decided that I should leave the vehicle. “Get out” he grunted, which again confused me, as he did not stop the car, so he reached over me, opened the door and pushed. Somehow I had become tangled in the seat belt and he dragged me circling over the trolley tracks. I don’t remember if I became disentangled from the seat belts and managed to fall while he was still driving or if I was finally able to make my exit when he crashed head on into the concrete trolley abutment.
This was about 9am on a Friday morning and there were plenty of onlookers. There were commuters, students, museum-goers, etc. As I lay on the street, bruised, and bloody, watching the man slowly loping off toward Mission Hill, I heard conversation about me and directed toward me. It seems as if people were thinking that I was connected to the strange fellow and they were witnessing a scene of domestic violence. Basically the word was that I was his whore and was not behaving. This was despite the fact that I was dressed in modest art student attire. Finally though, someone did call an ambulance and I was taken to the nearest hospital where it was discovered that miraculously, my knee was the only physical part of me that was busted. And furthermore, all that would be required to fix it was a few layers of stitches, ibuprofen, ice and some rest.
My live in boyfriend who worked 24-hour shifts at a teen shelter had chosen this particular morning to sleep in, and we had quite deliberately muted the phone’s ringer. I felt stressed and alone knowing this, but the answering machine noise finally roused him, and he got on his bike to ride to the hospital to pick me up from the ER. (We pretty much shared that dodge dart). Bill showed up right about the same time as the dean of students from Museum School, and I felt utterly bedraggled in her smooth, unharmed presence as she drove us home to Jamaica Plain in her late model Mercedes.
My prim and disapproving neighborhood auto insurance agent, Mrs. Fowler, became warm and sympathetic upon hearing my news. She couldn’t fix the fact that I had only carried collision on the car, but she was able to get the insurance company to pay every cent of my medical bills.
My knee has been, for the most part trouble free, and the only physical remnant of the incident is a large and beautiful scar. It took a bit of time, some geographical shifting, some art making and storytelling for me to overcome my newfound fear and wariness, but I think that now I only carry as much suspicion in any given situation as any native New Yorker naturally would. Telling the tale of being one of the very first car jack victims ever must have been a bit therapeutic. And people were totally fascinated by it. The Boston Police however were totally uninterested. While my beloved car stayed in the police junkyard, wheels splayed outward at impossible angles, busted, the decrepit, knife-wielding man never was. And I never did get another Dodge Dart.