A friend will bring you some take-out when you're starving in the ER waiting for a few stitches. A really good friend will finagle you a ride back from the hospital, watch you get mended, and tell you how much street cred the badass scar on your face is going to give you.
I am writing this from an undertstaffed hospital waiting for the doctor to close the wound on my right jaw. I was attacked by a man with a knife on Saturday evening at 8:01pm while i was just starting my run.
This was not one of my dreams. More like one of my dreams come true. I've had many dreams in which an evil force is after me and i have trouble running away, but i always manage to get to safety or wake up before it gets me.
I was a short distance down the street from my apartment, when i heard a lady yelling at people "Hey do you have a phone? Call 911!" As i was pausing in front of the wall of the Daily Legal News building, i heard someone say something like "He got a knife! He tryinga cut my mama!" Before i could explain anything to the operator, the lady said "Run!" Before i could get around the corner of the building to run down the sidewalk, a man charged at me, grabbed me, and pushed me against the wall of the building. He had a knife in one hand, which ended up against my face--lower right jaw. He had ahold of my left wrist with his other hand, and said "Give me the phone!" I initially tensed up, then did what the self defense workshops tell you and froze and let him have the phone. He grabbed it, turned around, then dropped it in front of me and ran down the street in the opposite direction, which happens to be the direction of my apartment. I guess he realized he didn't need to worry about me. The battery was gone when i picked it up, so i thought he ran down the street with it and chucked somewhere out of sight. This is panic logic. Why he would do that, i don't know. It makes more sense that it just fell out when the phone hit the pavement.
As the lady was yelling at me to run and the guy was running toward me, then grabbing me and pinning me against the wall, i was thinking something like "O crap i'm actually being attacked! What's this guy gonna do? What does he want?" When i realized the knife was pressed against my face i figured if i moved, it would end up in my throat. When he demanded the phone, it was apparent that he simply didn't want me calling the police. I don't even know if he intended to hurt me, but he obviously didn't care if he did.
I can't say that i was scared in that moment. Shocked is more like it. So this is what violence feels like. I've never felt anything like that. And i'm twisted enough to be fascinated by it. If they have a knife on any vital part of you, go limp or freeze until you know what's going on, until you know what they want. Then react accordingly. That was the best thing i could have done.
People keep telling me i should carry mace. But in this situation, it would have been useless. There was no time to deploy any kind of self defense tactic, unless i was a Navy Seal. This happened in seconds. He was right across the street, and i barely saw him coming toward me before he grabbed me. And i keep being told by merchants that mace is illegal in this state. My step-father spoke of giving me a taser, but he said it wouldn't work in the winter because the shock won't go through clothing. It aint winter. I wonder if one of those would have come in handy.
I didn't feel any pain, so for a few seconds i didn't know if i had been injured. The blood on my hands and strange distortion in the surface of my face proved that i had. I walked down the street and asked a random guy to call 911. When i got the operator, it was confusing trying to explain that i had been attacked while trying to call 911 for someone else, not knowing what was going on. The woman was still yelling for help and a few others were trying to flag down police cars that were going by. One of them looked like it was going to keep going, and they said something like "O no he aint gonna keep going?!" "No--it looks like he's going to go around and come back." I was afraid to be too visible because the attacker might come back. After talking to one person, i was transferred to another, and before i could get everything straight, a police car stopped on our street and i spoke to the officers in it. I told the people on the phone the cops were here, thanked random guy for the use of his phone, and got in the car.
The officers in the car said they had already gotten the call about this incident, and asked me a lot of questions about what the guy looked like, which i could barely answer, while they drove down to another location. During the ride, they were on the phone with someone who identified the assailant, and his picture came up on the screen in the front of the car. He is already known to them. He's 51, and he and one of the women involved in this situation have been living together for 10 years. They kept asking someone on the phone and me what he was wearing. Someone said a cream colored shirt, someone said a burgundy shirt. I seem to remember gray, but i really don't know. I barely saw his face. Just a medium sized black guy with a small knife, built like me, and angry looking. They asked if that was the guy who attacked me, but all i could say is it could be him, if that's the guy these other people were complaining about.
I don't know if he was actually going to hurt that woman's mother or if he was just being an asshole and scaring them. I think they dragged me into their own Jerry Springer bullshit. It could be that my distracting him from her saved her life, but i highly doubt this is the case. Just that if he can be this dangerous to an uninvolved stranger and injure them, it's horrible to think what he could do to the people he's closer to.
The most ironic thing of all: My mother wants me to take my phone with me when i run in case i need to call 911. But it was calling 911 that got me attacked. I would have taken my mp3 player and used the stopwatch on that, but i was planning to meet up with my acquaintance DJ around 10, and wanted to have my phone on me in case he called. I remember having a funny feeling as i was locking my door before i left for my run. I had been out all day on my bike, and was already hungry, and the paranoid thought "What if something happens that prevents me from getting back here as soon as i think i will happens?" I took a bag of trash out as i was leaving, and walked to the back of the building. It was 7:59. I wanted to start my run at exactly 8, so i figured i would walk a few yards then take off. Right.
When we got to this other location, one cop had me stand against the bumper of the car while he took pictures of my injury. Other officers came and asked me some questions, took my information down, and got EMS to come. I told them i really needed the battery for my phone back, and that i think it was somewhere on a specific street. They said they would look around and that they would meet me at the hospital to get some more information. Blood was dripping and drying all down my chin, neck, and bras. My hands were covered in it, and it was on my phone. My shoes even have some splatters on them.
I climbed into the transport, one EMT poured some peroxide on a towel so i could wipe some of the blood off as they took my information. I told them what happened and they asked, "Did you know the people you were helping?" I said no, that they were complete strangers. He shook his head. They looked at the cut and put some gauze over it. He said it's not often that bystanders are hurt in things like this. I said i kind of doubted that, but i'm cynical. They told me that i should never stop when someone asks me to call 911. It could be a scam--they could be trying to get close to me to rob me or something. They said to just keep running or go to the opposite side of the street, to just be cynical.
So my plans for the night are shot. Not only will i not be able to go out with my friend, that idiot killed my run because now i'm gonna have to go to the emergency room and talk to the police, while he does get a workout running from them. Where does that get even?
I asked them if they could stop at my apartment so i could grab my backpack. I had nothing on me except my keys and my powerless phone, i was already dehydrated, having ridden my bike over 30 miles that day, and i knew i would be in triage for hours, and my contacts were drying. They said they're not supposed to, but took a chance and did because my place was so close and i was not in mortal danger (anymore). I tossed my medicines, glasses, contact case, notebook, sketchbook, and laptop in my backpack, and grabbed a long sleeved shirt. I told them i had the discount through one particular hospital, so they took me there. I didn't know what reimbursement services would be available to someone who was randomly assaulted, so i figured i would go where it would be cheapest for me to be taken care of.
The EMT led me through the check in, and while in the waiting area i pulled out my laptop and connected to the guest network. I had to let someone know where i was. My friend DD was on facebook, and thought he was having a heart pounding evening until my message, "I was out running, and the short version is a guy attacked me with a knife and i'm in the ER waiting room needing a few stitches" popped up. Then my name was called over the PA to be officially checked in...and give them my copay. The middle aged lady checking me in looked like she'd lost a sizable chunk of her faith in humanity when i told her what happened. General service at this hospital is notoriously slow, probably because the doctors are over extended. One of the employees told me the place is understaffed. They take care of everyone, regardless of income or insurance. I can see a doctor for $5, ER for $10.
I was pointed to my room, and walked to it. A guy in the room across from mine with numerous small cuts on his face, forehead, and nose said "I hope you have a lot of patience." He had been in a combination traffic accident-assault. I cannot recall the entire event, but he was riding with a friend and the driver of a pick up truck flipped them off for some reason, then did some inappropriate maneuver that put them in the position of either hitting them or hitting a power pole. Power pole. Then the driver of the truck got out and bashed their windshield with a golf club. Resultantly, this guy had small shards of windshield stuck in his face, and was belligerent about it. He said he'd been there for over 45 minutes, and every time he went to the desk to ask if he was going to be helped soon, the lady yelled at him to go back to his room. His name was John. He thought my name was cool because it was so distinct. He said John was like the second most common name in the world, right under Mohammed. His friends call him Fat Cakes because there are four Johns among them. I asked if it was also partially for irony, because he was so skinny. Fat Cakes told me if he was shot in the parking lot of this place he would ask them to take him to another hospital. He said he "could be sitting around a campfire in his back yard drinking a beer right now--that would be fucking swell." And i could be sitting in a fancy club having a drink with a well dressed energy consultant whom i met at Salsa night, but that aint gonna happen either.
Fat Cakes said the guy right down from us had been there over an hour. This guy was older and wearing a backless hospital robe and his own pants. I wondered if he'd had an x-ray or something. He periodically paced out of and into his room, loudly stating that this was ridiculous. His haggard countenance and self-entitled impatience suggested that he was an oxy addict out of pills. At one point, i overheard a nurse in his room asking him questions. Then more waiting. One some point he came back out of his room and expressed the desire to leave. A nurse asked "You want to leave." He said "Yeah. Get me out of this shithole!"
When the police showed up, they told me there are victim's services programs that can reimburse me for my medical expenses. They found my phone battery--said it was right out in front. They also told me that this attacker had committed five felonies that day, two of which were against me. Felonious assault, because when he pinned me he ended up cutting me, [and if this holds up], aggravated robbery, because he took my phone or at least demanded that i give it to him.
These are tricky technicalities which some shithead lawyer would probably love to exploit if paid enough. Not that the knife wielding psycho would have enough money to pay for such a lawyer. And since he is black, he may be treated more harshly than if he were white. That's not fair at all, because a knife wielding white man is just as dangerous and a knife wielding black man, if he's going to pin a bystander up against a wall with it and cut their face. He wasn't out to kill me or rob me or rape me. The attack had nothing to do with me other than the fact that he saw me using a phone when the woman was yelling for someone to call 911 and he didn't want me doing that. His intention was to stop me. This attack also had nothing to do with the time of day. 8pm is not exactly thug-o-clock. This could have been the next person passing by if i hadn't stopped.
What happened was...a domestic dispute originated in an apartment complex several streets north of my location, involving two women and the knife wielding nutjob. Someone placed a 911 call from that location, so he somehow forced the two women away from there. I seem to remember a black car behind the woman yelling for help. I don't know if one of them was driving it or if they were all on foot. One of the officers said shaking his head, "These people...they're not too smart." Since when are police that diplomatic? I suspect that these squabbles, knife or not, are not uncommon between them, and I suspect, that by drawing attention to me, i was put in more danger than they were. They woman yelling didn't even seem panicked. Like she was just yelling for people to call 911 to try to scare the guy into behaving himself. She only seemed panicked when he came after me.
The police talked to me for a while. They seemed to think he had grabbed me from behind. I physically illustrated how he grabbed me from the front. One of the officers muttered about how "These people...are not too smart." Diplomatic understatement of the night. They both said that it really irritated them that i was completely innocent and I was the one who got hurt. I was someone who was trying to better themselves by going running and trying to help someone. One said that it was rare for them to have to deal with completely innocent people in [this city]. A friend later pointed out that this could be taken two ways: Either completely innocent people rarely get hurt, or there are not that many completely innocent people in [this city]. The good [?] thing is that if the women don't press charges against him, i can. This may be one of those stupid situations in which a battered woman keeps letting the same psycho back into her life.
Officer D was talking to me and Officer B left the room for a minute. He came back and said, "I think there's something wrong with my tooth...ow." And he crunched on something and looked stunned. I said "Do you have a piece of crunchy candy in there or something?" Officer D said "Look at this clown--he should have been in a circus." I told them "I've long thought i should be in a circus." They gave me the name of an office i should talk to, and i pulled out my sketch book to write it down. D said "You draw?!" And i explained what i do, and pulled out one of my MFA show cards with me wearing Pele's Gown and Helmet on it. They thought that was really cool.
The front of the ER is where the urgent traumas go. Heart attacks, anaphylaxis, gun shots, partial decapitations, and if that knife had been an inch lower, i might have been there instead of in the back. Officer D said "If i catch this guy, he's not gonna be back here; he's gonna be up there."
DJ called as they were leaving. I must answer the phone with a low fatigued voice, because asked if i was sleeping! No...i gave him the short version of what happened, and he asked if i needed anything. Some food would be great. I hadn't eaten a meal in eight hours. Just a protein bar. Sometimes i can get away with that, but not often. Because of my allergies, i had to figure out the safest thing for him to bring. Chinese--chicken and garlic with plain rice. Spicy. He showed up a short time later, nice shirt, perfect pants, alligator shoes. He wasn't sure how spicy to tell them to make it, so he got it mild and grabbed a bunch of hot sauce packets, which i exhausted over the course of my consuming the generic cuisine. He was in a hurry to get there, and forgot to grab a fork, or they forgot to give him one. He asked an attendant for one, and we waited. I ended up pulling out pieces of chicken and vegetables with my fingers, eating them, and raiding the paper towel dispenser. He asked someone for a fork again. I think he had to ask a third time, then told me the guy was going to get one--it would be just a minute. There was no visitor parking, so he had only fifteen minutes. He said something about valet parking, but he didn't want to do that. He had to go, but said he would be downtown if i needed a ride back. He said hospitals freak him out.
If he wants to hang out with me, he better get used to them. I've required emergency medical treatment five times in the past three years.
At some point, i realized that an inordinate number of my hairs had fallen out and were all over the gurney. I decided to re-sculpt my hair, by wetting the styling glue in it with water from the sink. I went to the bathroom down the hall and spiffed it up. Like it never even happened. The resident doctor brought in the supplies needed to mend my face. Dermabond. Skin safe superglue. They said it would work better than stitches in that area and they didn't want to give me the train track scars that sutures would leave. I didn't care. Scars on the face make the wearer look more interesting. And sometimes intimidating.
The hospital does give taxi vouchers, but the nurse told me she's had taxis take 6 hours to get there. I could walk back in less than a third of that time. I said i might be able to have a friend give me a ride back, and the nurse said "You should probably call her." HER. The gender assumptions continued when i was told that i should follow up with my primary doctor in a week, and was asked if i had one. I said that i had seen Dr. Katri in internal medicine for my asthma, and they said "You should try to see him." HIM. The a priori idea that my friend is female and my doctor is male pisses me off. And it is in fact the other way around. All of my initialed friends in this story are male.
I got DD on the phone and asked if i could ride mooch. The problem he said, was that he was out at a show talking to a band he wanted to join, and had been drinking and was between car insurers, nor was he familiar with that hospital. But he would see if his friend MM could do it, who did know the place. He could. I tried to explain where i was, but it's amazing how little you can see from the back of an ambulance. I had to make sure that i was indeed at the main hospital of this system and not a satellite facility. I was told there was only one entrance to the emergency facility, and visitors needed to check in at the desk.
By the time they got there, i was still not stitched. There was no where to park, and MM wanted to go home. He said he would be on call. He noted "After all this, your hair is still perfect." I said "I fixed it!. I was bored...what else am i going to do if i'm not dying?" I showed DD my blood splattered sports bra. He said "That's metal as fuck." DD is a materials physicist, so i showed it to him. "You'll like this--this is what they're going to glue me together with." He took the blister packaged vial and said "This is high viscosity superglue!" The resident and a nurse came back to glue me up. The nurse had to hold the cut closed while the resident applied the glue.
Even at my friend's place in a safe part of town instead of my apartment in the hood, i did not sleep that night.
The next day at the detective's office, i gave a written statement about the event, and was shown pictures of the people involved. They asked me to describe the woman who was yelling for help. She was short, kind of chunky, black, looked to be in her 30s, but i couldn't tell, and had a very specific hair-do, which i described in detail. They asked if "this" was her, and the woman in the picture was definitely not. That woman was older with a thinner face. They thought maybe i was talking about the daughter and brought pictures of her. Those looked much more like the woman in question, the one who was yelling about her mama about to be cut. They showed me a picture of the man. 5'9", 148, 51 years old. I knew he was about my size. On a good day we probably would have been evenly matched. I was told i would be notified when he was arrested. I haven't yet.
The most annoying this about this is that i've wanted to get the mole spot cut off my left jaw for years. And the one time someone could have done it for free...wrong side.