Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Capabilities

At one o'clock this morning, I got an urgent phone call from a friend who was out of town for the week celebrating his graduation at home. I've been very sick for the last few days (having been diagnosed with a variety of -itises) and normally would not have answered, but something made me pick up.

He was in a state. His girlfriend (whom I'd met once or twice before) had been in a relatively minor car accident with a man who may or may not have been drunk on some back road in Orem, and he pleaded with me to go help her.

A long time ago I made a vow that I would never again allow anyone to come to harm through inaction on my part, and I've always tried to keep to that code. And especially now that a loved one of a friend needed help, how could I refuse?

I called her up as I left my apartment and found out where she was. She was crying in the phone and I could hear a man yelling in the background. I told her I'd be there in a few minutes, then hung up and realized I'd forgotten my wallet inside. By the time I'd retrieved it, I was on the phone again with another friend who lived along the way. Even though it was so early, I was able to convince him to come help. I picked him up, and after getting lost once or twice we finally arrived on the scene.

She had been driving some old model of a Chevy tank, when they actually used steel instead of aluminum and fiberglass, and the man (about twenty-six, six foot, two hundred pounds) had been driving what had previously been a beautiful, white Mercedes Benz. It was now just a white Mercedes Benz with the front quarter of the passenger-side engine-compartment smashed in on itself. The truck, in the meantime, had only suffered minor damage to its rear bumper and a broken taillight.

Did I mention that the man was also holding a golf club? More specifically, a five-iron? No? Well, he was, and he was using it as a pointer, yelling at J about the damage to his car. I parked my car with the headlights shining to illuminate the area, and B and I got out and walked towards them.

J hadn't been hurt in the accident, and neither had the other man, who stopped his yelling long enough to shake my hand, where I was close enough to smell alcohol on his breath. That, along with a certain amount of inaccurate pointing done with his golf club led to the abolition of any doubts I might have had concerning his sobriety. Neither side wanted the involvement of the police or insurance, J because she didn't have insurance, and the man for obvious reasons. Still, none of the offers J made did any good in placating the man, who only got more angry as he studied the wreckage of his car compared with the relatively unscathed tank. He kept yelling at her, "Look what you [edited] did to my [edited] car! I can't believe this!"

B and I both began to sense that things were only going to get worse, and at one point J became exasperated with the man and turned her back on him mid-rant and put her hands in the air.

Apparently, this is the one thing you do not do to an angry, drunk man with a five-iron, which was proven when he started to attack the back of her truck with it, smashing the other tail light and hammering the bed and tailgate. I admit that for those first few seconds I was frozen with shock and incomprehension that a human being could behave this way.

That was shattered, however, when J tried to grab the man's arm to stop him from clubbing her truck, and this drunk, this filth backhanded her to the ground, then lifted his golf club at her.

I'm not a person who is easily angered. I believe that the truest definition of humility is 'power under complete control', and I constantly try to live up to that. My emotions are ruled and tempered by me, not the other way around. This is not easy, because I am, at heart, a very emotional person, feeling them deeply and strongly instead of fierce and sudden, like an ocean current vs. a gust of flame. That being said, I do not believe I have ever felt such a intense surge of pure outrage in my entire life as I had at that moment, watching J being knocked to the ground. There is nothing - nothing that is guaranteed to enrage me more than to witness violence done to a woman.

The shock and fear that had rooted me to the spot vanished, and before I even knew what I was doing I was moving forward, even as I watched him pulling back the golf club to swing at J while she was trying to get up from the ground. It honestly felt like I was running, and that the rest of the world was moving in slow motion, and after what seemed several minutes (and what could have only been at most a few split seconds) I found I was almost between the two of them. As the five iron came down, I threw up my forearm to block it, my momentum still carrying me forward, and yelled at B, "Get her!" The golf club hit my arm as I skidded to a stop between J and the man, but it wasn't enough to stop its motion, and the head hit me beneath the left eye on my cheekbone.

It didn't hurt (at least not then, I must have had more adrenaline in my veins than blood), but I certainly felt the impacts. It almost knocked me to the ground. It also made me much angrier. I'm not a violent person, but I think what I had suddenly entered was the instinctual "fight or flight", and there was no way I was moving from between this piece of trash and a woman.

While B scrambled to pull J to her feet, the man made to swing the golf club at me again with both hands, holding it over his head like he was about to chop a piece of wood. However, he was drunk, impaired both in judgment and reflex, and before he could bring it down, I grabbed the haft above where he was holding it with my left hand (which was also the arm he had just whacked) and pulled it down and to the side, throwing him off balance.

I can't remember ever throwing a punch in anger (except with my brothers when we were little), but before I knew it I lashed out with my right and punched him in the jaw. There was no finesse to it, and no experience to speak of, but it seemed to do the job, and he dropped the golf club.

Then before even I knew what I was doing, I grabbed him by the belt and the front of his shirt, bunched my legs together and hefted him into the air. My adrenaline by this point was in full force, as was the pain in my forearm, knuckles and face, and I could feel blood flowing down my cheek. I felt berserk. I am not proud of that.

I didn't throw him so much as push him through the air back the six or seven feet onto the hood of his car. He landed and cried out, and reached back to rub his head, but he didn't try to stand up or attack again. I picked up the golf club and bent it in half. I remember half-hearing myself say, "If you so much as look at her again, I will break you in two." Not something I'm usually all that prone to exclaim.

J was in tears, and B was looking rather surprised at me (heck, I was rather surprised with me). My adrenaline was still pumping, my breath was rasping in my bronchitis- and pneumonitis-wracked lungs, my body was literally shaking as I tried to calm myself, and my shirt was getting blood on it from the cut on my face (which was sad, since I really liked that shirt).

Without wasting another moment, we got J into my car (she was too shaken up to drive anywhere), B got into her truck (the superficial damage wasn't enough to hamper its operation), I used several tissues from my center console to staunch my bleeding, and we drove off. We didn't say another word to the man, who by now was sitting on the hood of his car. We didn't call the police, either, which may or may not have been wise. At that point I wanted to be done with the whole ordeal, and a situation with the authorities would only serve to make things much more complicated. In the end it was J's decision, and both B and I supported it.

As far as the man with the smashed Mercedes is concerned, he can rot.

We took J home and left her truck there as well, then I took B back to his place. I'm not sure how he'll respond the next time I might ask him on a late-night emergency. :P

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thank You

Thank You
D. Lawrence Ficklin

You've lived every one of your days
With small pieces of me in your pocket,
The parts that make a smile honest,
Bits causing nonsense tears.

This is strange
Because I've done quite well with my
Most-of-Me, hardly noting
That there was ever more, even more,
That the small holes in my person
Could be filled by persons other.

And I'm slightly shocked,
Because all this time you've had me.
Without knowing, you've had my
Rest-of-Me.

But now you do. So let's do a trade:
My Rest-of-Me for your All-of-You
I think that is fair.