It’s a rather interesting feeling, suddenly being pushed to your knees from behind, with an object pointed against your head as a gruff voice demands your money, your cellphone, everything you have. I wouldn’t say that I was afraid–not for my life, at least. Not once during the entire mugging did I have a particular fear that I was going to die. I feared for my belongings, and I feared that I might be injured, but my life? It just didn’t occur to me.
I can’t tell if that’s why I fought back, or if I’d realized by that point that the object against my head was not a weapon, but an iPod masquerading as one. Either way, the mugging turned into an outright brawl as my attacker and I threw our punches, crashing against the cars and fences that surrounded us. I won’t bore you all with the details, but ultimately, the criminals were arrested, I got (some) of my belongings back, and now I have an appointment with the district attorney’s office and a grand jury. This is my life this week.
The thing is, though, I’m finding that I’m hurt more than physically.
Sure, my body aches, and I have a black eye, and my brand new phone is shattered…but more than that, I find myself looking over my shoulder. I was assaulted during my walk home from work, something I do nearly every day. I’ve lived in this area for a year, and in the city for three years, without a care. I survived deep Bushwick for three months: why is the East Village where I suddenly feel unsafe?
The reality is that I’m not unsafe. Or, rather, I’m not really safer here than I was anywhere else. It was random, and could’ve happened anywhere. I was either just unlucky the other night, or I was lucky that it hadn’t happened before now. Any of us could be mugged at any given moment. The time of day doesn’t even really matter that much. Sure, an attack may be more likely at night, but that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly safe during the day. Even knowing your surroundings doesn’t mean much. I was one hundred percent aware that my attacker was behind me, but I shrugged it off, assuming him to be simply another pedestrian. My mistake: but how was I to know?
How is anyone supposed to protect themselves in a city filled with over eight million people? If somebody wants to hurt you, they can hurt you. Short of becoming a reclusive shut-in, this is the risk that we all have to take. It’s not really different than anywhere else, aside from the simple fact that with the more people, the odds change. You can carry pepper spray, or take self defense courses, or even run everywhere you go: the unfortunate fact is, someone traveling alone becomes a target.
Even with that reality fresh in my mind, though, I’m reminded constantly of everything I love about this city. I love that there are so many people. I love that we’re all different. I love the feeling that absolutely anything can happen–even if that, unfortunately, could go in a negative direction. Despite this incident, I’ll be sticking around, grateful for every moment.