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1:29 a.m. - 2005-02-28
Stupid shit.
I’m not a tough guy at all.

When I was in high school I got jumped or accosted on the street or bus well over a dozen times. This city was dangerous back in the late eighties and early nineties. It wasn’t just me, almost everyone I knew had been threatened at different times. I was an obvious target because I was small, white, and traveling across the city by myself everyday. Sometimes they wanted my bus pass. Sometimes they wanted my jacket. Sometimes they just wanted to use me to vent their frustration with society, their own social problems, or whatever.

I have been hit by strangers a few times, chased many more, and told that I was going to get my ass kicked even more than that. Through this relentless exposure to danger I became skilled at escape, defusing situations, and recognizing when I was really in trouble. One day when I was sixteen I actually fought back due to my recognition that anytime three people had to find the smallest little white boy available to fuck with they were probably cowards, and the fact that some girl probably broke my heart making me very irritable. After that I was never really singled out again, maybe because I wasn’t as scared, maybe because I wasn’t on the bus system much longer, maybe because the social climate started to change a little. Whatever it was, any confrontation since then has not been simply random.

Until last week. I had just left an Indian restaurant where I had a lovely meal with Mama-fresh who was visiting. I was full. The kind of full that has you suddenly panicking at the table when you realize what you have done to yourself and that it hasn’t even settled in completely yet. But sadly, the restaurant was only about fifteen or so blocks from my house, and everyone else in my party was taking the train the other way. This meant no excuse not to walk my ass home, no matter how little I felt like moving at all.

I walked, and walked, and it wasn’t as far as I feared. I was about one block from my house, and I live in a pretty safe neighborhood, about as safe as they come I think, when I was grabbed from behind. I first thought it was one of my roommates trying to scare me. But they didn’t let go. So then I thought it was one of my other friends who has a tendency to take those things too far. But when I was turned around to see three other guys, all bigger than me and getting ready to swing at my head, I was pretty sure I was about to get beat down to the sidewalk.

Somehow I got out of the grip of the first one and swung at the two that were closest to me. These were pathetic punches mind you, mostly just trying to back them off. They continued to yell about how they were going to get me, as if encouraging one another, but I ran about a quarter block before turning to face whoever caught up to me first.

“What the fuck do you want?” I yelled at them.

“We want yo money nigga!” was the answer.

At this point my subconscious was able to put together a few facts. One, none of them really wanted to be the first to reach me at this point. Two, even catching me completely by surprise and out numbering me four to one and all being bigger than me, they failed to lay a finger on me. Three, I was pretty fucking close to home now. This information is what must have brought me to the decision to call them fucking bitches and inform them that I wasn’t giving them my money and that I wasn’t going to back down.

They all ran at me again and I fled across the street.

“You ain’t backing down?” The biggest one taunted.

“Why’s there got to be four of you punk ass bitches? There’s only one of me!” I did the math for them.


He had heard me fine, but I repeated it for him anyway. At this point I ran further up the block toward my house, hoping that my roommates were right inside.

“Well just me then nigga!” offered the biggest one with is arms open. He didn’t step one foot away from his three friends though.

At this point I was pissed more than scared. I really wanted the chance for it to just be he and I. I really hoped that there were enough people in my apartment to make that feasible, but I also didn’t want them to see where I lived. So instead I called them many expletives, pointing out what failures they were for letting me get away while having me so outnumbered and outsized. They didn’t like the yelling too much anymore, and decided to run the other way before someone called the cops.

And that’s what I should have done.

That’s not what I did.

I ran upstairs to get my roommates. Only Miguel was home, and he is no bigger than me. I told him what happened, and after he saw that I wasn’t joking he was ready to go. Miguel and I grew up together. In fact we were jumped together way more than once or twice, always outnumbered just like this time. I think this is what drove us both to forget about sensibility and run with anger.

We went down to my truck that was parked right outside. I saw the way they had run and drove down a few blocks in order to come around and cut them off.

Two little guys against four big guys? Sort of. I am a carpenter. This means my truck is filled with tools. Tools like hammers and crowbars. We each grabbed one.

I saw them walking up the street parallel to mine and backed my truck up and parked it. I walked out onto the corner and bellowed something aggressive about how I was going to kill them, holding the hammer in my right hand. Miguel came running up from behind me and they turned and ran like the devil was after them, into busy traffic causing cars to screech in both directions. I really was mad enough to hurt them too at that point. In fact, the most danger I was probably in throughout this event was going to jail for assault with a deadly weapon if I had caught on of them.

But thankfully, they got away just as I had earlier.

Some people, including those who came out of their houses to see what was happening, congratulated me as a hero for standing up for myself. Some people thought I was wrong because they could have been armed as well. Some thought it was a stupid macho retaliation. And some, like me, think that I could have hurt somebody and wouldn’t want to live with the consequences of that legally, or morally.

For me, what pissed me off the most was the fact that my little brother walks that way by himself every Wednesday night to play poker at my house. That women are often strolling there alone while talking on their cell phones. That if it was my dad or most other people they might have grabbed they could have gotten what they wanted. I have a measure of street smarts that came from being forced into these situations so many times before, and it is likely all that got me out of this one.

I’m not really angry with the guys who did it anymore. I hope they took the experience as a clue that they shouldn’t do that type of shit, and not a lesson in being more aggressive from the start. I hope I learned something too. That I don’t really want to hurt anyone when I am hurt, even if my initial reaction is that I think I do.

This is a lesson I have really got to get, in this situation, and many others.


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