So I’m just going to try and get all this down in some kind of order. It probably won’t be completely coherent but it’s more about getting what just happened out of me than anything else.
I just got mugged. And then I mugged the mugger right back.
It happened more or less like this:
I left the house at 11.30pm to meet a friend and go for a walk. He had initially suggested watching a movie at his place but I hadn’t left the house all day and wanted to stretch my legs.
[So this is already my fault, I know.]
We ended up sitting on a couple of swings at a park near a local supermarket, shooting the shit. I had just made a potentially controversial statement about–you know what, it doesn’t matter what it what about. What matters is that it was a crucial moment that really didn’t need interrupting and God decided it was the perfect time to prove he had a sense of humour.
Enter the Mugger.
He was about as stereotypical a chav as you could ask for: hood up, bottle of indeterminate brown liquid and cans of lager in hand. His jacket was kind of expensive-looking, but he did say he had come from York so that pretty much explains it. He was also off his face and decided it wouldn’t be creepy or terrifying to approach two guys on a swing set and not announce his presence until he was practically breathing down my neck.
He didn’t attack us or anything. He didn’t even seem like a threat once he started talking. In a way I wish he’d just made his intentions known from the off. Then I wouldn’t feel so dumb and shitty about everything that happened and I could just feel like a victim instead. Which is already a stupid thing to say, I know. But hear me out.
[For the record, this isn’t a story about something really bad happening to me. Nothing is physically gained or lost by the end. This is just a story about something that happened two hours ago and how I feel about it now.]
He sat on the swing set next to us and told us how happy he was to see two guys just enjoying themselves, sitting here in a park in the middle of the night. (He seemed pretty sincere; I added the sarcasm myself.) He began his tale of woe but cut himself off pretty early, as if he’d already forgotten the finer points of the night; he got “blown out” by a girl (his words, presumably bad) and didn’t have a place to stay tonight.
I didn’t feel that bad. Guy comes to town on the shaky pretence that he might be getting laid tonight he better have a plan B. He seems nice enough and all
Then the Mugger asks a nonsensical question that should have struck alarm bells instantly: “You guys got a Sony Ericsson charger I can plug into your phone?”
I don’t really know how to answer this – I figure he’s just wasted and mixed up – so my pal does it for me. “We’re outside, mate.” This guy picks just the worst moments to be wry.
But he accepts it. “Oh,” he says, seeming confused. I guess it was innocent after all. I mean, he rolled my friend a cigarette and offered us a sip of his brown stuff. I declined both offers, but thanked him all the same.
Then he asks if his headphone socket (or charger or cigarette lighter or what, I can’t even remember any more) would fit in either of our phones. My friend just tells him no, it’s not the same make. I tell him the same, but he gets up anyway and saunters over to me because I was the one who made eye contact.
Now, here’s the part where you might lose sympathy. It’s the part where I do the dumb thing. No, not that one. The really dumb thing.
I pull out my goddamn mobile phone.
To this moment I’m not certain why. The rationalisation I’m feeding myself is that I was trying to show him the port that wouldn’t fit his (charger? washing mashine? sex robot?) and put it away before he was within grabbing distance, but even that requires a basic disregard of logic. I’m seriously concerned that I’ve just got a reflex that wants to please people, give them whatever they want the instant it’s asked for without a notion of how badly it might affect me. Because if I don’t give them what they want, they might not like me. I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out.
Anyway. The phone.
So it’s out and upside down, and I’m already saying, “See, it won’t fi–” and his hands are already on it.
I don’t know if you own an iphone or have ever tried to keep anyone from taking one from you, but those things have no fucking grip whatsoever.
“Please–don’t take my phone.”
“I’m taking this phone.” It slips fully from my grasp. How did I not see this coming?
The Mugger steps back and my earphones disconnect, flop against my jacket and I’m on my feet. I’m gonna do something – I don’t know what – but it’s gonna be something damn manly.
“…Please, come on, man. Give me back my phone,” I manage to squeak out.
He’s already five, six feet away but he doesn’t make a move to run. Doesn’t want to abandon the brown goo in the bottle he’s left under the seat, I suppose.
Mugger sneers at my no-hearted attempt to take back what’s mine. It belongs to him now because he has the power to invade a stranger’s personal space and I don’t. He says something else but I don’t hear it, I realise he’s left his front pocket open and I’m moving in with my left hand, I let my anger speak for me:
“Fucking GIVE me my PHONE.”
It’s not exactly Dirty Harry but it does the job. Kind of. My hand plunges into his pocket and connects with a mesh of earphone wires, a cigarette case and a glass rectangle that hope to Buddha isn’t just some honorary award from a community centre. I know it’s the phone, really – I saw it before I dove in – but right now I’m looking at this guy’s face and wondering when he’s going to nut me and I’m more concerned with just getting my hand out of there ASAP, never mind what’s in it.
They’re deep pockets, and you know how earphone cables get – it’s a mess. It’s not exactly the conventional way to use a pocket, either, so I’m orienting as much as I’m grasping.
He looks like he’s leaning back, and even though my right arm is held up across my face (at least I think it was) I see him lean back, not running, leaning back with his head and his right arm, and I expect a blow –
[This might be an appropriate time to let you know that I’ve never been punched in the face before]
– but my hands slips out with the phone and without incident. The Mugger backs off and starts laughing, making excuses like he was going to give it back but I’m not listening. I’m mad at him, of course because he took something of mine like it was his, but not just because of that. When we were locked in that weird non-tussle, not only did I think he would nut me, I anticipated it, could practically feel my forehead buckle and my brain swell. If he’d done that I would have struck, or tried to (my right hook is as of now still untested), because I really wanted to hit him in his arrogant fucking face.
I’m mad because he wronged me and didn’t have the common decency to give me a chance to hurt him. I know I’m not supposed to feel this way, I know it’s bad. Violence doesn’t help anyone, and it would have undoubtedly made the situation a million times worse. But it’s how I felt, and still felt for the next hour of my life.
What happens next is so banal that it’s almost surreal: I hand the Mugger back his earphones (they’d come up with the phone), because I’ll be damned if this asshole turns me into a thief too, and he laughs as if I’m the jerk. He talks some more aggressive shit, I threaten to call the police and he starts coming for the both of us so we run. He stops after about three seconds but we keep on going until we’re three streets away and can’t hear his rueful laughter any more because who wants to stick around crazy?
Half a glass of water in my friend’s living room later and I can’t take any more of sitting still and start the 40-minute walk home, trying to focus on a podcast about screenwriting but looking over my shoulder every ten seconds and taking almost none of the hosts’ lighthearted banter in until I’m sure he’s probably passed out in a car park by now.
I think about the dumb decisions that led to my vulnerability tonight and I think about how I didn’t know I was the kind of person who’d try to steal his own stuff back. I also think about how used to the whole scenario my friend seemed and whether that was just putting on a brave face or general nonchalance gained from his previous experience with muggings and street violence, either way it’s hard to think about.
But mostly I think of what I’m going to write about when I get home. A blog, probably. It does me no good to make a diary entry no-one will ever read. I need people to know, not for sympathy or pity, but because knowing other people know will make me feel better for some reason. I think about the fact that I’m considering blogging about a potentially traumatic experience, and then I think about writing about thinking about that, and then I get sick of myself before long.
What I hated most about tonight was that the Mugger seemed to prove what’s been subconscious for so long: that it’s better to stay inside, not leave the house (or only go to your friends’) and that it’s just not worth talking to strangers. I hate it because I don’t really believe that, not on a waking, thoughtful level. But if my subconscious didn’t have any bearing on how I live my life then how come I’ve barely left the house in three weeks?
I don’t like to end on a downer, so I’ll leave you with this:
Writing all this down has made me feel better. The fact that it’s nearing 4am and the old adage ‘never go to bed mad’ is seeming more and more like a self-fulfilling prophecy with every passing minute shouldn’t have any bearing on the matter, but all the same.
I’d like to say the assholes didn’t win tonight, but I’m not so sure.
[Unless I’m the asshole.]