Last night, we went out to dinner with friends in Japantown to celebrate my birthday (37 today, woohoo!) and had loose plans to go to a karaoke bar after. We lingered over dinner making up new lyrics to Justin Timerlake's "Sexy Back" and shared our favorite lines from The De-pah-ted, which we had all recently seen. We had some beer and soju cocktails which made us the most hilarious group in the place. Or so we thought.
After dinner we strolled through Japantown wondering what to do next. Someone suggested seeing the Departed again (which actually sounded great) and so at about 9:10PM (we'd look at my friend Bad Kitty's photos on her digital camera to check the time later) we stood in center of the Peace Plaza (a wide-open space in the middle of Japantown) to consider our plans. The karaoke bar was directly across from us. The movie theater was a couple of blocks down. We decided to check the movie time to see when it started, and if it was too late we could circle back to the karaoke bar.
Off we went.
We arrived in front of the movie theaters at 9:20PM and saw that the next showing didn't start until 10PM. Too late, we decided, so we doubled back to the karaoke bar. As we approached, we heard sirens. A fire battalion chief's red Suburban sped past us. A police car, sirens blaring, blew by us heading the opposite direction. We heard sirens and saw more police cars going in different directions and wondered what happened. It seemed like mass confusion.
Bad Kitty and I were walking ahead the boys so we arrived at the karaoke bar ahead of them. As we approached we stopped dead in our tracks. Two women, the bar owners, ran out of the bar in front of us and were screaming hysterically. One of them was on the phone screaming, "Ambulance! Ambulance!" She ran into the street, practically doubled over from hysteria, to direct the long line of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks that had no idea where they were going just a minute before, to the right place. She pointed frantically across the street to the exact spot where our group had been standing not 10 minutes before.
It was there that we saw a person on the ground right where we had all decided to take a stroll to the theater. And that's when time got all weird and bendy.
We heard the words, "Shooting...shot four times...shot in the head."
Bad Kitty and I stood glued to our spots in front of the karaoke bar. I could hear the women still screaming madly. I could hear the blare of the sirens as more and more and more police cars drew up.
When I saw the officers rushing into the bar with guns and a rifle drawn, I turned to walk away.
As we rushed back down the sidewalk away from the karaoke bar, I spun around once more and saw paramedics carrying one gurney to the Peace Plaza. Then three more gurneys were carried into the bar. And all I could think was, "We were right there....Ten minutes ago we were standing right there where someone got shot. We could have been there, or on the stairs going into the bar, or in the bar itself when the shooting started...Ohmygod we have kids..."
We ducked into a nearby bar to decompress from the experience and sat quietly sipping our drinks and talking about the "what ifs." Ironically, the small, intimate bar was also a karaoke bar, but no one felt much like singing.
We finished our drinks and decided to call it a night. We had to walk back to the parking garage underneath the Peace Plaza and the entire area had been taped off with crime scene tape. All the ambulances were gone but you could not miss the huge red stain in the middle of the plaza. Next to it, a young man with a string of wooden beads in his hands sat quietly chanting.
Later on the news we would hear that
one person was two people were killed, two others injured in the bar shooting. One arrest had been made.
I keep thinking about what might have happened if we hadn't decided to stray from our plans to sing karaoke and walk down to the movie theater. We'd all seen The Departed before, it's not like we had to see it again. I can't explain it, but when it was suggested as an alternative, it felt like the right thing to do.
I keep thinking about what a difference 10 minutes makes, and how the title of the movie means something completely different to me this morning.
I also keeping thinking, enough with the fucking guns already.