Saturday, January 20, 2007

Random Acts

Yesterday a friend and I took a walk at lunchtime. Even though it was cold, the streets were fairly crowded. Just as we crossed a street, a man came running around a corner, grabbed another man, threw him to the ground, and started pounding on him. Our first instinct was to get as far away as possible, out of range of swinging fists. Not to mention the possibility that either would pull a knife or a gun. Some other guy shouted, "hey, stop it," and finally the one doing the assaulting got up and ran across the street and away. The other guy stood up, saying, "What did I do?" as if he truly didn't know, although it was hard to tell if the attack was completely random or he knew the guy but didn't understand the source of his rage at that particular moment. He (the victim) was dressed like a food delivery person, with a thermal food bag.

The sudden unexplained violence shook us; suddenly, our afternoon lark lost its sense of "playing hooky" fun. I kept turning back to look at the victim, who stood alone now, leaning against a wall. It bothered me that no one, not even me, was there, making sure he was okay, asking if he needed anything, offering to call the cops. If it had been me that was attacked, would that also be the case, or would it automatically be different for a woman anyway? Yet even as I worried that he was standing there alone, something stopped me from going back to help him; a fear that the other might come back maybe? Or just cowardly fear.

My friend pointed out that he had stood up, didn't appear to be badly injured (no blood), and he was surrounded by other people if he needed to ask for help. Chances are someone (the guy who shouted "stop"?) had already called 911. She was as shaken as I was.

For the rest of our walk I jumped when I saw any man with a hood pulled up over his head, no matter that the aggressor's hood had been brown: my stomach did flips if I saw a man in a red or green or blue hood. Even hours later, when I was walking home on my own street, a man passed me, head peeking through his down coat in a camouflage-colored hood, and I felt my legs turn to jelly.


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