last night on my way to meet a friend for dinner before seeing the opera dark sisters, i was walking up 8th avenue when i was bodychecked by a random stranger at 47th st. it’s not the first time i’ve been assaulted, but it was the first time it happened on a city street at 5:30 in the evening. it rattled me.
ironically, when i was getting off the A train 10 minutes earlier, the woman in front of me suddenly stopped and i bumped into her like we were bumper cars. i apologized to her. she kindly acknowledged my apology and continued walking. she knew it was an accident. it happens in this crowded city, especially during rush hour.
but when this man walking erratically on the sidewalk walked in front of me and slowed down, i clipped the back of his foot with my pink rain boot. it wasn’t forceful, i can’t imagine it hurt him. i apologized, he turned around, looked me in the eye then bodychecked me. it all happened so fast, but i could see the anger in his eyes. i’m glad he didn’t use more force and that i have cat-like reflexes, he could have knocked me down. i kept walking a few more steps when i realized i was following behind him and it would be better to just stop. i didn’t want to be anywhere near him. one man who was standing against the wall of the building saw the whole thing happen. he walked over to me and asked, “did he just hit you?” “yes,” i replied, “i bumped him first, but i apologized. i wasn’t expecting him to do that.” “he clearly hit you,” he said shocked as he looked around. maybe he was looking for a cop. i’m not sure. we chatted for a few more moments as i kept my on the whereabouts of the strange violent man. i thanked him for coming over, continued on and crossed the street.
as i continued up 8th ave., i remembered the feeling i had after being assaulted 12 years ago in college. the bodycheck was far less extreme. back then, i was thrown out of my body for a period of time. it’s a terrible feeling to feel unsafe or to have your personal space violated. to suddenly become very sensitive to all the strangers around you, to feel weary. i remember back then even feeling so uncomfortable around the people who were closest to me. i was just not myself. i was probably experiencing PTSD. fortunately, this experience was far less intrusive and didn’t throw me out of my body. i got my bearings back quickly. the shock has worn off and i don’t feel afraid, uncomfortable, or traumatized.
i think most people don’t understand what it’s like to be assaulted, so they find it difficult to empathize. perhaps it is challenging to empathize when we haven’t experienced similar circumstances. maybe that’s where compassion enters? or is empathy a pre-requisite for compassion?