We are all completely fine. I say this because it is a useful way to preface a post about having fended off three would-be muggers.
Josh and X and I were walking up through Isham Park after dinner, around 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday. We're generally alert around the north edge of the park, since it's where two guys tried to mug Josh a couple of years ago, but we weren't being super-vigilant; they've improved the lighting and cut back the trees, and it was a fairly busy time of night, and there were plenty of people around.
In fact, three of those people--young men, age 19 to 22 or so--were walking very closely behind us. VERY closely. And they had black scarves over their faces. I think Josh noticed them first and then we all did and started walking faster.
One guy made beckoning motions and said something like "C'mere, c'mere". We continued walking faster. Then he reached into his jacket and pulled out an object that was supposed to look like a gun. For a moment, I thought it was one, and I slowed a bit and said "Uh, guys?" to suggest that Josh and Xtina should look at him and be aware that he was threatening us with a weapon and that sort of changed the situation.
Then I looked at it again. It did not look like a gun. It looked like an L-shaped piece of plastic. And he didn't handle it like a gun. I have seen handguns up close all of twice, in very different conditions; I am not anything like an expert. I knew this even as I was making the assessment, and I knew that a wrong assessment would be very dangerous. But... it just wasn't right.
He sort of gestured with it and murmured, "I could blast you away right here."
Reader, I laughed. I'm sort of horrified to admit this now, but I did. It was just so ludicrous! "Blast you away"? Here? With so many people around? With a fake gun
? An incredulous "ha!" came out of me before I could stop it. And that reminded me that I could make noise, and that I should make noise--yay for years of anxiety-induced self-training and reading up on what to do in this sort of situation--and I pulled out my project-from-the-diaphragm voice and shouted, "GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HERE!"
Meanwhile, Xtina had her phone out and was dialing 911, and Josh was giving them his best intimidating look (helped by his bulky jacket and him being rather bigger and stronger than any two of them put together). And some other people were coming down the street and looking our way. And we were well out of the park now and in front of apartment buildings with windows at street level. And it was Saturday night
, for heaven's sake, and cars and pedestrians all over the place. The three guys glanced nervously at one another and decided this was not where they wanted to be, and they headed back into the park.
We did not try to follow them. We went home, and I called the cops, and two minutes later the cops picked us up (they happened to already be down the street) and took us to where five teens had been stopped by other cops, and they asked us if we could identify any of them as the ones who had tried to mug us. We couldn't, really, because they had been wearing masks and it was dark, but it didn't look
like the same people. It looked like some kids had been stopped for walking while POC, basically. They were bored and annoyed. The youngest was maybe 13, and clearly familiar with the routine: get patted down, give your name and address, blah blah blah, come on, man, I just wanted to hang out with my friends
. I thought of karnythia
's sons and it all just broke my heart.
One of the kids had a black face mask in his pocket, and the cops asked us if he looked familiar, but by then I was keenly aware of us being a bunch of white adults about to pass judgment on a bunch of non-white kids, and we couldn't conclusively ID them, and I don't know about the others but I was really done. My heart had been pounding for twenty minutes straight. These kids had probably been pulled over before we even made the call. It was all just stupid and sad.
So we apologized to the cops for not being useful (they were clearly irritated by our reluctance but carefully polite nonetheless) and thanked them for being so quick to respond, and we went home, and Xtina and Josh had some whiskey and I had some taurine and we hugged one another a lot and made bravado jokes and did housework and buried ourselves in the internet while our hindbrains attempted to make sense of all of it. The others thanked me for shouting and I second-guessed myself a whole lot (though even my finely honed second-guessing mechanism had to admit that we had reached the best possible outcome and so I could probably feel reasonably confident that we all behaved appropriately). I set up a PIN to unlock my phone because the PIN screen has an emergency call button on it. Josh went to bed. Xtina bustled around. I tweeted. We hugged more.
We are shaken and sad--oh, so sad, for those kids and the wannabe muggers and the whole fucked-up culture--and once we're done with that we'll probably be angry and annoyed and sad. Also very glad that no one got hurt, obviously, and vaguely glad they didn't get any of our stuff, though I only barely care about that. A few phones and some small bills, whatever.
Of course that is exactly why you're not supposed to fight back when someone tries to mug you. Not getting shot is far more important than material goods! But there is a third element to the equation, as it turns out, and that element is being completely fucking outraged and disbelieving and appalled
by the entire situation. I didn't feel intimidated or scared or out of my depth, even in that indescribable moment when I saw the guy reach into his jacket and knew he was going to bring out a weapon. I just thought, oh, this changes things
. Then I realized (or believed--I suppose I will never be entirely sure) that it wasn't real, and that changed things again and suddenly the whole thing was just ridiculous and outrageous, and I reacted the way I react to ridiculous, outrageous things: laugh at them and tell them to fuck off.
I think it was the same for Josh when he was attacked a couple of years ago. One of the guys hit him over the head with a bat. It didn't knock him out. It just made him pissed
. He turned around and yelled at them--not because he'd been trained to but because he was startled and angry--and they ran.
I am very, very aware just at the moment of how much societal privilege goes into reactions like that. I'm very glad and grateful to have such privilege. I am furious beyond words at this fucked-up culture, at the white cops stop-and-frisking the nonwhite kids, at the gutted economy that drives people to steal for a living, at the muggers' casual assumption that we would be completely freaked out and compliant, all of it, all of it, all of it.
At least some of that is clearly the last of the adrenaline leaving my system, as I'm also starting to feel really tired.
Before I sign off for the night, a brief attempt to answer some of the likely comments: Yes, we still feel generally safe and happy in this neighborhood and plan to stay here. Yes, we will probably be avoiding that particular route home after dark. Yes, we really are fine. I probably won't have the mental wherewithal to answer most comments directly, but please accept my advance appreciation for your expressions of kind concern.
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