I'm returning home from the Frontline Assembly show, riding a musically charged high. I step off the skytrain, cross the pedway, and step onto the escalator that leads down to the bus loop.

A young man with a back-pack is waiting at the bottom. He's one of those characters who's misleading appearance hides their age. He could be in his teens, he could be in his 20's. It's hard to say, and it doesn't matter.

As I get halfway down the escalator he beckons to me. I give him a confused look. He beckons again as I step off the escalator and onto the pavement. "'Have a light?"
"No, I don't," I reply. He reaches into his pocket, motions me to come closer. It's as if he's got something special to show me. Some secret that he doesn't want anybody else on the platform to know about. I'm expecting he'll offer to sell me some drugs.

Instead, he produceds a package of Player's Lights, pulls a cigarette from the carton, and holds it upwards towards me. He might be offering it to me, but he doesn't say anything, and I'm not sure I understand his intentions. Besides which, I don't smoke and so I'm not interested. "I don't have a light," I repeat, and I shrug with my hands still stuffed in my jacket pockets.

"What's that?" he gestures at my right pocket.
"It's a CD". I quickly flash the side of the disc inside my pocket before returning my hands-in-pockets to their sides. The next thing I know he's grabbing at my coat and reaching into my pocket, brushing my hand away, asking again "What's that"?
"It's a CD". I'm confused, but calm.
"What the fuck is it"?
"It's Frontline Assembly". An honest answer, not that it means anything to him.
He wrenches the CD out of the pocket and takes two quick steps backwards, waving me away. "Get lost," he says. I stare at him. He takes two more steps back, I take two forward. "Just go," he says. I glance over his shoulder to see if mall security are nearby, but they're not.

He spreads his arms wide, holding the CD away from me, beginning to circle around, putting a garbage bin between us. I take a few steps sideways and forward. We're circle-strafing each other, just like in a video game. Except this isn't a game. This is addiction versus addiction. His irrational need for money, for posessions, for showing dominance. My irrational need for a flat circular piece of plastic, of which I own many, that holds 60 minutes of music.

"Oh, you wanna fight?" he asks, holdling his arms out to make himself look bigger than his scrawny build will allow anybody to believe.
"No, I just want the CD back," I say calmly. He continues backing off, circling. I continue my advance, confused and a little angry.

"Let's go, c'mon, bring it." He throws a feeble slow motion fist towards my face. I've seen toddlers throw a better punch. He seems off balance. It dawns on me that he's probably on something, and his judgement probably isn't very good. The punch passes a foot beyond my face and he stumbles slightly.

"Just give me the CD."
He begins to retreat up the escalator, and I realize he's trying to rob me. I've let people walk all over me before, too often maybe, but not this time. I'm not going to fight him, but I'm not leaving without the CD back in my pocket.

He turns, and runs up a few steps, putting more distance between himself and me. I pursue at a steady pace, stepping onto the escalator. I hold the handrail on either side, lock eyes with him. I don't smile, and I don't yell. I keep a straight face.

He looks at me, casts a look over his shoulder behind him, then back down at me. My mind is clear, and my eyes say it all. It's at this moment that he realizes that I'm not going to stop following him, and he doesn't have very far to run.

He steps up another step, crouches, puts the CD on the escalator stair between his feet, and then turns and runs. I take the CD, back down the escalator, and place the disc back in my pocket. The night is quiet and the air is still.

I'm not sure how to feel. Just when I was starting to feel like it's time to stop guarding my feelings and emotions so closely, and to start letting people in...
some screwed up asshole decides to do something that makes me want to be even more guarded and closed. I feel foolish and naive for trusting a complete stranger. I begin to fantasize about all the nasty things I could have done to him. I imagine tripping him, holding him down against the pavement, kicking him in the ribs. In my mind I play out beating his head against the stone until it bleeds into the cracks.

I feel a little frightened afterwards, and a little worried about my personal security. But nobody got hurt, and I didn't get robbed. I stood my ground, stood up for myself and my personal rights, and I did it without any need for violence.

There seems to be a misconception that pacifists are weaklings and cowards. I disagree. Our strenght is in our willpower, our convictions, our clarity of mind.

But I still worry, if that first punch had made contact, what would I have done? Could I have held my composure? And what if this happens again? And will I be as lucky a second time?

I'm still tackling with my feelings about this encounter. I'm not sure what to think or feel. But I do know this: If there's a next time, maybe I'll just let it go. It's just a CD, just a piece of plastic. I can always buy another one. A life and a soul are much harder to replace.


that perverted jerk said...

I think standing up for what's yours is important.

If the violence had escalated to the point where you probably couldn't defend yourself? Yeah, it's just a CD. But I think it's telling you asserted yourself to that little maggot. Pat yourself on the back! You got what was yours, and all you had to do was not back down.

"I begin to fantasize about all the nasty things I could have done to him. I imagine tripping him, holding him down against the pavement, kicking him in the ribs. In my mind I play out beating his head against the stone until it bleeds into the cracks."

I think that's normal. I've been in situations before that could have easily broken into fist fights, where I wanted it to break into a fist fight, but the rational mind manages to hold despite all that. It's weird how afterward a person can regret doing the right thing and wish they did the very violent and wrong thing, but that's how we vent our anger (It's pretty much what Jevon was doing THAT night, if you don't realize).

|:::lockan:::| said...

In reference to that night, yes you're probably right. But I wasn't there to hear the conversation, so I only know the parts I did hear. Besides, there's a difference between saying "I'd like to..." and "I'm going to...".

Lucia said...

you have been tagged:

I found your blog randomly using the Next Blog button. sorry if this is crazy spam. but I do check in every now and then to see what you write.

Anonymous said...

Next time a crazy whackjob like that takes a worthless trinket let him have it and walk away. You're lucky he didn't put a knife in your ribs or pop a cap in your ass. Don't think it can't happen.

|:::lockan:::| said...

/sarcasm on/
Gee. That had never crossed my mind, not once. Thanks for your invaluable advice.
/sarcasm off/

Sarah said...

The way you described his blood leaking into the cracks at the bus terminal totally reminded me of Fight Club. This has never happened to me, but I imagine if it did, I would react in much the same way. Or I'd go bat shit crazy and beat the hell out of the guy. Either way. Glad you're okay and I'm glad you got your cd back.

Random aside: want some good tunes? Check out KEXP's podcasts on iTunes - so fucking good.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome.

No need for sarcasm. In your piece, you say at the bottom that "maybe" you'll let it go next time.

Hence my advice. Do with it as you please.

|:::lockan:::| said...

My apologies then. I think I was grumpy the morning I replied.

Anonymous said...

No worries. Hope things are good for you. It's tough moving to another province by yourself. I did that too, once upon a time (to Alberta, from BC.