Travelling home fills me with irrational trepidation. And even though rationally I know there is no real ground to the feeling, I can't shake it. I become extra sensitive. I become needy. And I cry - Oh I cry. I know generally the feeling is just my fears. Fears that people I care deeply about won't love me once I'm not far away. That their love is conditional upon me being an arms length away at all times. Fears that all the pressure and expectation that has been building in me, will be for naught. I do it to myself. But knowing that doesn't really help me. The anxiety courses through me. Imagined slights becomes intentional hints at people's true feelings. Friends and family try to talk me off the ledge. But I can't pull myself away. Because that is my deep dark secret - On the precipice of seeing those dearest to me again, I almost believe that my feelings are not reciprocated. It is irrational. It is stupid. It is part self pity and part self loathing. But it is there.
"Our love story could be kind of gory
we'd meet at a post-apocalyse
Yeah, I'd be slowly walking
in a group stalking you,
you'd be the only man alive
that I could not resist"
I quietly sung as I walked home, texting Alisun all the while. Maybe I ought to keep walking and get some of the anxiety out. Either way I should at least stop at home. Check my flight. Call for my morning cab. I love that sometimes Alisun and I think to text each other at the same time. I just like us. Maybe I should stop and get a snack for the plane. No, healthy eating. Candy will not fix anxiety. A small smile and a quiet laugh sneak out as I read Alisun's texts.
Someone runs past and with a big grin turns to me.
Suddenly I am wrapped up from behind. My first thought: "Has one of my friends seen me and is grabbing me from behind?"
The smiling boy commands "Give us your bag." And suddenly there are many people around me.
"No. Don't do this. NO, I will not give you it."
There are so many hands on me. Why do people do this?
Hold tight to your phone. Don't let it go.
The boys grab my bag.
But I will not let them have it.
"NO. Stop. Stop. Don't do this." Instantly, I flash back to walking home alone, thinking about what I would do if someone accosted me. And I know I would not go easy. I'd fight.
Hands still on me. They are pulling. I am pulling. But I have nothing but the strap. And there is a smaller hand that grabs my headphones and yanks, while simultaneously the strap of the bag breaks.
The two boys turn and run, with the smaller girl with my iPod following close behind and the bigger girl trailing.
I start to run. My lungs hurt. The air is so cold. It burns and stings. I quickly catch up to the bigger girl who has started to walk. She's out of shape.
I grab her arm.
"Ok, ok. Just leave me alone. Guys! Guys! Come back!"
I should phone the police. I've never called 911 before. But I don't want to lose this girl. I divide my attention between her calling out and the thought that I should also be calling out.
Why is no one around?
The little girl in the grey hoodie and black puffy jacket saunters her way back towards us, my iPod still dangling from her hand. I grip the bigger girls' arm in my hand. Her green jacket firmly planted in my hand. My cell phone in the other hand.
As the little girl comes up I request, "Give me my iPod back." And begin to try to use my phone to call the police.
Suddenly, both girls turn and begin trying to pin my arms.
"Grab her phone! Grab her phone!"
Pushed against a fence. Two on one. But I will not go easy.
My feet are lifted off the ground in the struggle. Hands on my hands. Tearing and clawing to reach my phone.
I wrench my hands away but they lock me in tight. Lifted off the ground I wrap my legs around the smaller girl, as I fall to the ground on top of the bigger girl who has stumbled part way to the ground; simultaneously trying to contain that small girl and keep her greedy hands from getting any closer to me as I grapple with the larger girl. I struggle to keep my phone away from their hands. Their pawing and clawing hands. Someone pulls my hair
The little girl, my legs both wrapped and pushing her away, lifts her foot and begins to kick. But they are not hard kicks. This is a brawl of unseasoned fighters. Of girls who have always appeared tough, but may not have had any need to prove it. Punches and kicks thrown without any weight. Without any real force.
"Do you have her phone?"
"No, I can't get it."
My right shoe falls off as they right themselves and begin to run in opposite directions.
Call the police Melissa.
"911 What's your emergency?"
Don't lose her. Follow the girl with your iPod. Leave your shoe. You'll come back for it.
"I've been mugged. I'm following one of the girls." I can barely get it out. The air stings and burns my lungs. I can't run and talk to the dispatch.
"Where are you?"
"I'm following one of the girls who mugged me."
We both walk. I follow her through the alley. Onto the path that leads through the subsidized housing.
I keep expecting her to start to run again. To turn around and see me. But she doesn't. She walks quickly ahead of me. Past the brick subsidized houses. I have a fleeting thought that chasing after is not the smartest idea. What if more people come out of these houses to attack me? But I push it quickly from my mind. Unlikely.
"Where are you?"
"I'm following the girl, between Shawmut and Tremont."
"Cross street? We'll send a squad car your way."
Where'd she go? The path turned. I didn't see where she went. I was too busy trying to figure out where I am. I don't know exactly where I am. I know I'm by the post-office. Where did she go? Probably into one of the houses. How could I lose her?
"Where are you? Where is the girl? What is she wearing? What did she look like?"
"I lost her. I can't see her anymore. She was wearing a grey hoodie and black puffy jacket."
"Are you by Shawmut?"
"No closer to Tremont. Let me just see what street I'm on."
What is that man saying to me?
"Do you need help?"
"I'm on Agwedilla Street and Tremont," I direct the dispatcher.
"Aguadilla? The cruiser will be right there. What did your attackers look like? What did they take?"
"There were four of them. Two boys and two girls. One of the boys came in front of me and the other grabbed me from behind"
"Can you describe them?"
My foot is cold. I need to find my shoe. I only have on one shoe. The man who had called to me tosses me a glance as he enters his building. Did he see where she went? Blue and white lights whip past on Tremont.
They probably can't find this tiny street.
The dispatcher peppers me with the same questions. Descriptions. What did they look like. What were they wearing. When did this happen. Where.
I don't know. They were black. Young. Teenagers. I didn't get a good look at the boys. Why do people have to do things like this? I can't believe I lost that girl. I think one of the girls was wearing a green jacket and a touque.
"A touque. A winter hat."
Curse. America never knows what I'm saying.
Blue and white lights pull into the street.
"Are you the mugging victim? Can you tell us what happened? Are you hurt?"
"Four people jumped me. I chased after them and caught the bigger girl. Then the little girl came back and they both started to fight me. I lost my shoe."
"Are you hurt? Do you want to get in the cruiser? Here, get in."
"I lost my shoe. A couple blocks over. I lost my shoe when I was fighting the girls."
I slide into the back seat, pushing aside whats on the seat.
And I cannot stop thinking about Mike Rolin. The night before his flight he was mugged. The night before my flight I am mugged.
"What did they get? Where did this happen? Can you describe them? How many of them were there?"
Police hats. That is what is on the seat. Police hats and paper.
"Are you ok? Do you need an ambulance?"
"I'm not hurt. Except perhaps my pride."
What an easy target I made. iPod in. Distracted. Singing softly to myself.
I know that is what the cops are thinking.
"Can I call my parents?"
"You still have your phone. Of course."
There's blood of my phone. My hand. The back of my hand is bleeding.
"We'll call you back..."
"Mom. No. I've been mugged."
Tears burst forth as I tell my mom what happened. And stupidly lament the loss of my possessions.
"I know it doesn't matter," I sputter.
"You're probably scared. I'm sorry this happened."
But I'm not scared. Fear has been absent through this entire ordeal. I wasn't going to let them take my stuff. But I couldn't stop them. I just wish I hadn't lost my stuff. I wasn't even a block from my house. And I don't understand why people do this. I want to find my shoe.
My hair is dishevelled. I only have one shoe. And my jaw hurts. I leave in five hours to fly home.
"Where do you live? We'll take you home."
"Can we find my shoe first?"