It’s really hard to believe that a new year is again knocking at our doors. Some people are reluctant to open that door and grant that mystery guest access into our lives. Others who have seen this year filled with tragedy and heartache are willingly welcoming the change and wanting to put a greater distance between the past and future.
Right before Halloween as I was leaving my office to catch my evening train home, I was assaulted.
Here’s what went down.
As I left my work for the day, I heard music echoing in the direction of Portland’s City Hall just south of my building. That’s when I noticed this young light-skinned guy with braids carrying a jacket and a small portable speaker heading my way. I really didn’t think anything of it. There are people walking around with booming speakers everywhere. On this unseasonably bright and cool fall day, I was wearing sunglasses and my wool cap. When he approached my side of the street, he proceeded to walk on a diagonal path directly towards me. I moved to try and avoid a collision, and that’s when he hastened his pace and shoulder-butted me. Luckily I wasn’t physically harmed but stood frozen as it happened.
The guy didn’t appear to be having a mental health episode or under the influence of drugs but for whatever reason, he picked me to be the recipient of his aggressions. I think this guy was really hoping to knock me off my feet. Since that didn’t happen, he began yelling at me and threatening to knock my “f@$king cap and sunglasses off my f@$king face”. I was in shock. He kept moving back and forth towards me taunting me trying to provoke a response. Though the guy was smaller than I am, I didn’t do or say anything to further escalate things for fear he may have a concealed weapon. I stood there staring at him as he showered me with a range of colorful explicatives until he finally walked on.
I looked around and saw people waiting for the bus and was curious, had things become physical, would they have come to my aid. I don’t mean stepping in between the altercation, but at least calling for help or getting the attention of staff in my building. No one bothered to see if I was okay or offer any type of moral support. I wondered if it was because I was Black, a guy, or simply that it wasn’t their problem? That saddened and even angered me. One person who happened to be walking by after things went down was my anchor to reality. I told him what had just happened to me and mentioned that he had just seen someone get shot weeks prior. This is the state of things where I live. Why me, and what motivates someone to randomly attack a stranger?
Shaken, I called Eric the hubster, to tell him what just happened as I made it to my train bound for home. The reports of violence in Portland have become historic. Granted I wasn’t a victim of gun violence, but a victim of aggression and hostility nonetheless. Most people who know me are aware of my cool demeanor and happy go lucky attitude within the community. My last real fight happened when I was a teenager visiting my stepfather’s mother for a week in Pittsburgh, Texas (it does exist). The nearby park was the weekend social spot where all the locals would go and hang out on warm summer evenings. I was encouraged to go and perhaps meet some new friends. As an outsider, I got singled out by a pair of twins who wanted to prove to their crew they were “badasses” by attacking me.
Things started off with friendly conversation so I didn’t think anything was wrong. That’s when things took a turn. I didn’t notice that the other twin had placed himself behind me. In an instant, I was being shoved, falling backwards over the other twin to the ground. I was then tackled and punched. I managed to squirm free and fight back. I pinned one twin down with my knees and proceeded to choke him. I had never felt such rage before. The adrenaline must have kicked in because I didn’t even feel the other twin biting me in the center of my back in an effort to distract and loosen my slip-jointed thumbs from his brother’s throat. I wasn’t letting go. Onlookers finally had to pull off the guy before I did irreparable harm not just to the instigator in my grasp, but also myself. Bloody from the bite in my back, I staggered from the park with tears running down my face and headed back to Grandma Hughes’ house. From that moment until today, I promised not to ever lay my hands on anyone, in anger again.
I have never shared this memory before.
Now back to today.
With this one random act, it has triggered me, awakened me, and changed me. I see things differently. The rose-colored glasses that I have conveniently worn so I wouldn’t have to see the real world, are off. I see the ugliness in this place of beauty. I’m more conscious of my surroundings and who or what is within my periphery. I have been naively walking around thinking that no one would dare bother or harm me if I simply minded my own business. Truthfully, I am terrified of what the adult me would and could do to another person if I were forced to defend myself. My friends have suggested that I carry mace with me since I work in an area where there are an abundance of unstable and addicted individuals roaming in the downtown Portland corridor. I won’t live in fear and at the same time, I really hate the idea of being “armed” with anything as I’m going about my daily business, but maybe they’re right. I have to protect myself since we, I, can’t expect others to do so or even help.
I shared what happened to me with one of my female colleagues. To my surprise, she shared a similar experience when she was leaving the downtown (Old Town) area after playing Bingo a few Sunday mornings ago. While she was getting on her bike to ride home with a friend, a houseless person, possibly suffering a mental health issue, came out of their tent and hit her on the side of her face. Luckily she was wearing a helmet but it stunned her. Another houseless person asked if she was okay before she quickly sped away.
Though these episodes happened a couple of months ago, there is never enough time to heal the wounds of a scarred heart, mind, or body. What is happening to our “humanity” within our society?
For the most part, 2022 was a good year for me. I was lucky and survived it, despite what happened to me. I’m fortunate to have had more positive experiences this year than negative ones. Either way, I remain grateful, and cautiously optimistic as I look ahead to the new year.
Happy New Year All!