The last thing I saw before they disappeared was my cousin Kevin’s arm, his plaid sleeve, red and white with thin green crosshatching, melting into the Coliseum’s exiting crowd. Ecstatic fans’ bodies jostled past me, whipping me left and right, a royal blue tide of Memphis State Tigers, who in their joy over winning the conference basketball title hadn’t noticed the skinny girl who had bent down to buckle her shoe.
When I stood up, my family was gone.
My father was a homicide detective. I had always been taught in an emergency to find a police officer, that they would help me. But panic, and the nighttime landscape, so different than when we entered, mucked my mind. I stumbled down the concrete steps, wildly scanning the humps of the backs flowing above me, willing just one of them to be my father.
But no one came back.
Breathe. Boswell’s didn’t cry.
And then I bawled. Snot dripping, sleeve-swiping, I tromped with the throng toward the green and red traffic lights, certain I would find someone related to me waiting at Third and Madison. I had walked this route dozens of times with my parents; we were season ticket holders. I knew where I was, and yet I was hopelessly lost.
I crossed Madison, passing two police officers, toward where I thought we had parked our Oldsmobile, Lot C? D? Daddy? I screamed. Daddy!
A couple approached me and asked what was wrong. They were old, like my grandparents, so they must be safe, I thought.
I was losssssst, I squawked. I couldn’t find my p-p-parents.
Only then did I realize how cold I was. February knifed at my skin. My mother had been carrying my jacket, and I had fussed away before she could get it on me.
The man took off his coat and wrapped it around me. It smelled of wool and peppermint, and for a moment I relaxed. But now I didn’t look like me—how would anyone find me? I pushed it off, continued to cry, tears blopping onto the coat lapel. And I felt rude. And I didn’t care. The couple comforted me, assuring me they would do whatever it took to find my family, but in that moment, my world ended at the cigarette butts and crushed beer cans fringing that fast-emptying parking lot. I would never see my parents again.
After some minutes (2? 5? 40?), a figure stalked past us, 20 yards ahead, determined, his arms wide, powerful pendulums, forging his way against the crowd toward the Coliseum again. His face was hidden by a green wool ski mask, but I recognized it, and the reticulated strides of his 6-3 frame, immediately.
Laura is a copywriter for a trade association in DC, but her past is sports journalism, and she has a sports blog, ladiesroomsports.com