Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Week 9: Now With Chin Whisker Twirling Action...A Very Unpleasant 30 Minutes

JN: It's fuzzy, it's shaggy, I'm happy! Reginald has gotten a little itchy, although it is nowhere near the level of annoying awfulness that is still to come. The very thought of that eye twitching, fist pounding itch makes me want to hurl whiskey bottles through windows and into the night. The dark, dark night. But no matter! This is what I signed up for, and I am damn well determined to to stick it out til the bitter end. People keep complimenting Reginald's growth, and I continue to feel more like my actual self. Looks like me in the mirror too. An added bonus is that now my chin whiskers are long enough for proper thought twirling. And what's the point in living if you can't twirl your chin whiskers while contemplating the cosmos? Not much is the correct answer to that question.

A note from the desk of Jeff Newman:

Heading home from grocery shopping the other night brought with it an incredibly unpleasant experience while standing atop the Granville platform of the Red Line. A train arrived heading south, and from out of the last car a young woman of about twenty emerged. She was incoherent, hyperventilating, and babbling about a man who was trying to hurt her. A man who was trying to rape her. There were four of us standing there caught in that familiar limbo place of what to do when something so flip side of normal happens in the city. Before anyone had time to assess this twisted situation, the man she was fleeing from approached from behind. He was wearing an oversized black Bulls coat with a huge red logo on the back. She pointed at him confirming through so many gasps and yelps that he was indeed the man she was talking about. He froze, saw the four of us standing there, turned, and walked away. As there was no exit from the platform in the direction he was walking, so the only reasonable explanation is that he hopped down to the tracks and fled the scene as it were.

Inhalers or puffers are used mainly for the treatment of asthma, influenza, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Zanamivir. I only bring it up because there's a good chance that's why she was clutching her inhaler so tightly as she sat and shook in the corner of the hot box. Two puffs, then a third, trying her damndest to stay level-headed and failing miserably as she called her sister, and one of our four called the cops. Two of Chicago's finest showed up to take our statements, get a description of the man in question, and assure the safety of the young woman. She finally related that the man on the train was masturbating in front of her, and followed when she got off the train. It was when he grabbed her shoulders from behind that she started screaming. She insisted, or seemed to insist that an ambulance was not necessary, but the officers thought it best to have someone see her just to be on the safe side. Possible hyperventilation and all that. Neither myself, nor the caller from our group of four could agree on which direction the man had left in. As I said, I distinctly remember him turning and walking away. Our caller said he was sure the man walked passed us, down the stairs, and out the exit. It would seem that such an obvious detail having occurred not moments ago would be anything but fuzzy, and yet...

Her sister finally arrived and after a lot of close quiet talk, they rose and left with the police. The whole mess was over in about a half hour, though it seemed to last far longer. I received a call today from a detective asking if I'd be willing to come to the station and pick someone out of a line-up if it came to that. I assured him that I'd be perfectly willing, but was more than a little uneasy at the prospect of having to point out a guy I only saw for five seconds in the middle of a lot of yelling and confusion with no chance for second glances or caught breath. Detective Mark DiMeo thanked me for my cooperation and for being a good citizen. He gave me his number and assured me he'd be in touch. While this ending seemed happy enough considering what's possible with the same set up in any city in any country in any decade, I was very shaken by the whole ordeal. I knew without much consideration on the train ride home why I was so unsettled. It was as plain as the lump in my throat. A choked back sob of shame that I didn't feel like sharing until I was alone in the shower with steam, white noise, and a good stiff drink. Regardless of how childish, outdated, or impractical the sentiment, deep down I can't help but feel:

I could have done more.

Done more? Done what? What more is a good citizen supposed to do besides stay out of danger, call the police, give a statement, cooperate and be thanked for it? Why did standing back and keeping quiet fill me with such overwhelming guilt? This guilt stuck with me the whole way home, and all through putting groceries away, and all through loading laundry, and into the shower with the heat and whiskey and tears. I'm not Batman and this isn't Gotham City and that's not what I'm talking about. I don't know, nor have I ever known where the line is exactly concerning my own safety, my own responsibility to my fellow man, and the importance of minding my own business. The one thing I know for sure was the one thought that burrowed itself into my frontal lobe and would not vacate no matter how much I tried to expel it and be done with this nightmare forever. The fact that would not stop haunting me is knowing how I would feel if this was done to someone I cared for. Someone I loved dearly and could not do without. Someone who could not necessarily defend themselves from a large perverted fiend, and needed to reach out to whatever strangers and bystanders might be available on a cold train platform in February. Moments like this remind you exactly who makes this list in your life. I thought of that list. I thought of the young women in my life, particularly in the city who may one day face such a monster. And when I thought of that, I couldn't shake the knowledge that in this hypothetical situation, I would have done more. For my sister, for my close friends, for the young college students I work with, for anyone stuck in an impossibly helpless situation in need of a friend, if only for a half an hour. What made this actual situation different? This young woman was not my family. She was not my friend. She was my total stranger. So what? She was somebody's sister. Somebody's daughter. Somebody's friend. And, yes. I could have done more.

I could have chased this man and knocked him to the ground.

I could have beaten him about the face with a can of Campbell's Chunky soup from my backpack of groceries until he stopped moving.

I could have forced him to apologize and restrained him until police arrived.

I could have drug him the length of the platform on the concrete and thrown him down the stairs.

I could have shoved him onto the tracks hoping he'd get shocked to death by the third rail.

At the very least I could have remembered the man's shoes. If he was wearing jeans or pants and what color they were. Cliche though it sounds, it all happened so fast, and I just couldn't god-damn mother fucking remember. I could have done at least that. I could have asked the detective when he called what her name was. If he had spoken with her today. If she was feeling any better. I could have at least done that.

Lots more whiskey, laundry, pizza delivery, and XBOX 360 until seven in the morning was how I decided to deal with this emotional tempest. When a situation dwarfs your usual reason and the ground beneath you starts to shake, it's best to go with your gut. I knew deep down that this internal crisis would subside soon enough, but in the meantime it seemed like a good use of my time to take Arkham Asylum back from Joker even if that meant electrocuting his giant pasty Titan-form with my ultra batclaw no less than three times. Seriously, that is one of the easiest boss fights in the history of video games. I don't have a clean ending for this. There was nothing clean about the evening. There is nothing clean about my mood as I write this. In a despicably unsatisfying way, this was just something that happened this week. Something that made me ask myself a lot of questions I never wanted to answer. Something that fucked up my Sunday night.

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