Vigilante

Posted on November 22, 2010

5


(via Crime and Federalism)

I’ve talked a little bit here before about my experiences with crime–most notably here, where the story of The Pervertrater is told, and here, where I discuss the events surrounding the shooting.  What I haven’t talked much about is how I feeeeeel about crime, and how I feel is this: angry.  I used to be scared–sometimes I still am–but now my overwhelming emotion when people do me and my loved ones wrong is rage.  Pure, flowing, and unadulterated.

Just last week, in Florida, my mom reminded me of something that happened to her once while visiting DC.  She was staying with me in my Logan Circle apartment, and had walked down to meet me at my office near 14th and K.  This was back when Logan Circle was much different, in the pre-Whole Foods era, but still I felt fine there and had no qualms whatsoever about having my mom walk down to meet me in the middle of the day.

When she got to my office, she told me that she’d been walking down 13th Street when a homeless man asked her for some change.  Sorry, I don’t have any, she replied, smiling nicely, as all midwestern mamas do.

And he called her a bitch and spit on her.  ON MY MOTHER.

Before I even fully registered what she’d said, I had kicked back my chair and stood up.  I was literally seeing red, the edges of my vision wavering with it, and my blood was rushing in my ears so loudly I could barely hear.  Where did this happen? I barked, gripping the edge of my desk with such force that my fingers ached later.   I had to take a walk around the block a few time s to cool off.

I had a similar reaction to a phone call years later from my sister.  I was in a makeshift office in San Francisco for a work trip, exhausted, and she called, sobbing, to recount a fight with her then-boyfriend, who had, in the course of the argument, put his hands on her in anger.  (That’s not a euphemism–he didn’t hit her, or even hurt her,  just grabbed her in anger and scared her.)  Again, I stood up so fast I knocked my chair over, and my hands started shaking so that I nearly dropped the phone. As with my mom, my whole body was instantly flooded with adrenaline that would take hours to ebb.

In both instances, had the spitter or grabber been within my reach, I think I would have hurt them.  I would have kicked them, and punched them, and stepped on their prone bodies.  I would have been out for blood.  A bystander would have had to pull me off.  That is actually a little laughable, as I have never hit anyone, and in real life I’m a gun-averse, flower-power leftist.  I don’t even watch violent movies.  But oh, oh, do not fuck with me and mine.

One more:  In a prior life, I used to spend vast oceans of time every day at the Starbucks on Dupont Circle, reading and smoking and drinking free lattes (it’s all in who you know.)  In the age before cell phones, people would look for me there if they needed to get in touch.  One day, I was in my usual spot, engrossed in a novel.  It was a beautiful spring day, and I was wearing a skirt.  Suddenly, I got that peculiar prickling feeling of unease you get when something isn’t quite right.  I looked around at my fellow patrons, but they all seemed to be on the up and up.  No weirdos coming down the street.  I tried to go back to my book, but the feeling persisted, and I found myself scanning the area again, knowing that something bad was afoot.

I was sitting in the table closest to the sidewalk, and there was a man sitting in a car parked near me.  At first glance, he wasn’t looking at me, but as I watched him over the top of my book I could tell that he was taking furtive peeks at me every second or so.  And then I saw it: that tell-tale jerky hand motion, so fast it was almost blurred.  I jumped up, knocking over my drink and abandoning my purse, and ran inside.  Having achieved his desired result, the man drove away a minute later.

I was shaken and disgusted, but I shook it off and tried to forget about it.  I wish now that I’d leapt over the little fence around the patio like a superhero and kicked his window in, or reached in and grabbed him by the hair and started screaming for someone to call 911 while I held on.  That is definitely the route that 35-year-old me would take.  I think.

(For the record, I also think that the reason we are a nation of laws is because people like me should not be administering street justice in moments of blind rage and getting away with it.  I don’t condone that kind of activity–I’m a lover, not a fighter–but I know how the impulse feels.)

So, if you were the woman in the video above, what would you have done?  What if you were a bystander?   What if someone spit on your mother?

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