Jan Reid,

Jan Reid,

A weeklong electronic journal.
July 7 1998 3:30 AM

Jan Reid,

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       My friends say the gunman initially fired a shot at the pavement that night, trying to quell the rebellion. I have no memory of that. I just remember his glare as he came after me. I guess I thought that if I could land one punch I could back up the pistolero, and then I'd take my chances as I turned and ran. I threw the left well but the punch fell short. The Mexican robber looked me in the eye, pointed his gun at my midsection, and shot to kill me. The muzzle flash resembled a distant spark of lightning angling from sky to ground. The pain was immediate, enormous, and precise; I swear I could feel the bullet's spin. I fell and cried out: "I'm killed." Such a bad Hollywood line.
       Four of us had gone to Mexico City to watch a prizefight. In April, Texas Monthly had published my article about Jesus Chavez, an engaging young boxer who had the uncommon distinction of gaining a No. 1 world ranking at the same time he was being deported. One of my travel companions edited the piece, another was the fact-checker. Jesus won his fight with a third-round technical knockout. The next night my friends and I drank and sang in Garibaldi Plaza, a mecca for mariachis and tourists. Then we got in the cab of a driver who delivered us to the two gunmen, who robbed us as the ride rolled on. Then as the cabbie pulled off a freeway, the robber who would shoot me said they were going to separate us. To me that sounded like a bad situation getting much worse. The fracas ensued--and my life can never be quite the same again.
       Surgeons in Mexico City saved my life. The bullet broke both bones in my left forearm, narrowly missed vital organs in my abdomen, and came to rest at the base of my spinal column. The initial prognosis was paralysis from the waist down. Days later, in Houston, I came out of the netherworld of morphine and found I could move my toes and feet. Rays of hope. Today, after two months of recovery and therapy in Houston, I'm home in Austin, adjusting to life in a wheelchair and trying to believe the assurances that I may walk away from it someday. I'll always know the face of the man who tried to kill me. But could I pick him out of a lineup? I don't know. Not that there's much chance of that. To this day, no law enforcement official in Mexico has spoken to me. I don't dwell on the pistolero. He has no presence in my dreams. I escaped him in the outpouring of friendship and rescue that began with a spill of letters across my bed that first morning I regained my senses. From an old girlfriend came the best first line: "Dear Jan--Don't get in gunfights when you don't have a gun."

Jan Reid is a free-lance journalist and a founding writer at Texas Monthly. He recently returned from a trip to Mexico that went awry.