I don't really like being bored. I'm probably more a of a creature of habit than I'd like to admit, but give me something new to do, a challenge (well, most any challenge) and I'm off. Maybe that's why I've never worked anywhere more than 5 years. Long enough to get familiar with procedures, techniques, customers and good at the required tasks, and then it's boring.
So I temper it. I'll throw rocks at the lake, left handed, try riding bikes while sitting backwards, take guitar lessons even though I'm convinced I have musical anti-talent. Just little things that push my envelope out. Maybe let me stay at a job that bores me more every month.
Some things like riding the bike while sitting backwards, gets an afternoon of trying and then gets abandoned, most likely, forever. Others I find enjoyable and often repeat them. One is the skill of just blending in and dovetails well with hunting and being out in the woods. I've had squirrels run up me halfway, stop in confusion when the 'bark of the tree' feels wrong, than leap away in panic when the realize what they've done.
Twice I've come up on deer bedded down. Both times the leaves were wet and silent and a light rain covered any noise I've made. The first time I wasn't looking for deer and about jumped out of my skin. The second time I have no excuse. I should have seen it, but wasn't looking and again was startled when the deer bolted.
But that's not really an unusual exercise. It's just part of hunting and walking in the woods. Just being silent and blending in.
Bored with a previous job, I went to attend a function for Professional Engineers. I wasn't ready to change jobs, but I just needed to do something different so I made a day of it. In the city were the function was, there was a dealer for German imports and since mine needed to be serviced, I could make a day of it. Eat lunch while the car got a minor repair and then go be a professional geek.
A few blocks down from the dealer was a restaurant. A clerk at the dealership said it was pretty good, so off I went. It was a few blocks walk, but I'd have to cross a major street. No problem, there was a stop light about half way between so I walked to it and waited to cross.
At the light, afternoon traffic flowed through the intersection. Being the middle of a work day, it was light, but not so light I could cross. Across the road waited a white pickup. No blinker. I looked at the driver and he responded by looking at me. He knew I was here, waiting to cross.
When the light changed, I stepped out, looking left to make sure no one was running the light as I crossed. I then looked right and left again, walking, and saw a large chrome grill bearing down on me.
Then I was on the far corner, aware of a pain in both my legs, looking at the truck stopped in the intersection, knowing that he had hit me. Almost as if he didn't see me. How, I don't know. I'm 6'5" and weighing about 250-255 and wearing a suit and tie. And I can see the look on his face. He can't believe what he just did. What just happened. His brain is on overload.
I know what's going to happen next. He's just a little guy. I can be nice, polite, and smile and still intimidate people. Here, on this corner, I'm grimacing. He's going to run, run scared, run for his life. Self preservation is an instinct.
Then I watch him pull a U-turn and stop in the open lot next to me and get out. He's besides himself, worried that I'm hurt, apologizing that he didn't see me. I had a instant goose egg on my right shin, a purple left knee that hurt. While I was glad that I wasn't hurt worse, my overwhelming thought was one of amazement that this guy put his concern for me over his own safety.
All the while, whispered in my ear was the thought "Go ahead and pummel him. No one would blame you." While I knew that was true, I also knew that that night the guilt of hospitalizing someone who could care so much about someone else (no matter how bad a driver they are) would keep me awake longer than the pain would. I just pretended not to hear the idea, besides I was hungry.
I hobbled off to eat while he waited for the light to change so he could recover the wiper I had pulled off in what must have been a slide across his hood.
Much later I'm in California installing some packaging machinery at a pharmaceutical company in the valley. Normally we have techs do the installs, but this machine was not yet programmed and the customer needed to start the long term FDA shelf life tests. Instead I went to finish the programming and to get some product packaged so our customer can keep to their schedule.
Except their testing schedule was more more intensive than originally stated. I had brought two books to read, figuring I'd be back home in a few days and now I had nothing to read and the thought of sitting in a hotel room, watching tv was the last thing I wanted to do.
The goose egg on my right shin had subsided years ago, but the bruise remained. I'm guessing I suffered a bone bruise when the truck hit me and over time it would fade and I'd think it was fully healed. Then it would darken into the purplish blue of an old bruise.
On this trip the bruise was showing it colors. Not that I needed any reminder. I stopped crossing at crosswalks that day. I can feel my pulse quicken at intersections. I now jaywalk, midpoint between the intersections, if I can. Jaywalking cuts the approaches down by half, compared to an intersection, and gives everyone long clear lines of sight. I think it's safer crossing this way.
With nothing better to do, I'm out walking, just a short walk around the block or down the street, hoping to find store with a magazine rack. Newsweek, US News & World Report, pulp paperbacks, anything. The street was like that, light commercial and services for the adjacent tech corridor/industrial park and residential one street back in both directions. It reminded me a lot of the neighborhood where I got hit, except the property values were probably an order of magnitude higher. Over the trees, I could see some high end houses and that was just a block off the main drag. Further back in the quieter neighborhoods, there may just be some houses that would be worth the walk to see, I thought at the time.
Except the intersection I was approaching was a side street crossing the 4 lane main drag. The similarity of the neighborhood, the reappearance of the bruise, even the curb style reminded me of the day I got hit. I asked myself the question that still boggled me "How could he have not seen me?" and I knew that I'd probably not be crossing any streets that night.
Besides, expecting it to be warm in California, I hadn't brought a jacket and the night was cooler then expected. So I decided to do something I had never done. Be still and quiet in an urban environment. I turned and walked into the parking structure rather than continue walking past it.
The parking deck's open faced architecture would allow me to watch and see what happened and the back and side wall would keep the light wind off me. As a light rain started to fall, I knew that this was better then sitting in a hotel room.
I was outdoors, sort of. There'd be no deer or squirrels, but the smell of rain was the same. The trees, however, smelt different. Something I didn't recognize. From the residences a block back came the smell of their gardens, almost a base of lilac tinted with a multitude of other flowers. Certainly not a smell I'd be enjoying in the hotel.
Sitting on a curb stop, partially cross legged, the oil spot in front of me told me an older vehicle regularly parked here. A thousand tiny drips of oil, accumulated over time, sat there as quietly as I did and I wondered if the vehicle would be back before I left.
Then across the aisle, an ember glowed as a smoker inhaled. I hadn't seen him light it and I had been there long enough that it couldn't have been lit before I sat down. Perhaps he used the dash board lighter to light it. I watched him smoke and he watched me watch him. I wondered if he had a cell phone and would call the police and report a suspicious person. After all I was in California, the land of the chic and affluent and they were the only people who had the luxury of a phone in their car.
My original plan was to leave when my legs fell asleep. Or I got bored. Or I saw him make a call. Then it dawned on me that he could be a dealer waiting for his connection and I'd just be safer if I wasn't there. Just as I decided that it was time to go, I heard a car slow to make a turn. This was the first car to enter this night and I knew that he was here because it was this secluded.
So I sat and was surprised to see the car, dripping from the rain, drive past him and continue to the back of the structure. "Now is a good time to leave" I thought, but instead watched him get out, and walk back towards the back of the parking structure. The way he hesitated, I knew he was bad. Drug dealers are bad, right? That all fits. And she's a Californian and they all do cocaine, right? It all fits. I needed go go, but instead I walked back to the shadowy depths of the ground level of the parking deck.
When I was younger, my curiosity would get me into trouble. I've since learned to hold it in check. I really have.
Her freshly parked car was still dripping and the whole smell of the parking deck had changed. The smell of rain was still prevalent, but gone was the smell of dry aged concrete, trees and lilacs; instead there was a new smell that I thought to be wet concrete, the front road, and hot car engine, but now believe to have been fear and guilt.
In the corner stood an enclosed staircase. Or so the sign said. I knew that opening it was going to be trouble, yet I opened it anyway. I knew my plan was poor, but I'd feign surprise and then leave. I'd see a drug deal and be gone. At best, I knew it was a bad choice, and had no idea why I was doing it. At least not any that I could admit to myself at the time.
Instead I stood there unable to decide what I should do. I felt awkward for failing to be embarrassed for seeing two lovers who couldn't wait for a more comfortable location for coitus. Then she looked at me and the look on her face told me that this was the last place on Earth that she wanted to be, that what was happening, she'd die to avoid. Then I realized that she didn't see me and if I could have thought, I'd have wondered "How can she not see me?", but I couldn't think. What I was seeing went against all that I believed. My mind was rebelling against what I was seeing. I know why some people go catatonic when faced with tragedy.
These are the things that happen in movies and books, bad things that happen to strangers, victims of crimes, but not to people in front of you. That she wasn't fighting or screaming suggested to me that I knew nothing about how life really was. Nothing fit.
If he was committing a crime, a violent crime, would he do it if he knew I was watching him? That I was standing here? That I sat there and watched him smoke cigarettes while he waited? How could he not have seen me?
I seemed to know so little and it all was so one dimensional, everything serially connected to the next thing and yet so confusing. Like a long string all bunched into a ball.
Now we've all had a tangle of string. The first thing we all do is find the ends and pull on them expecting the snarl to come out. Perhaps the hardest part is finding the ends.
Time seemed to stop. Nothing made sense. I didn't even exist. No one could see me. Not him, not her, not the guy who hit me. Perhaps this dream isn't even as dimensional as a string. Perhaps it's nothing and I don't exist.
Nothing seemed real. Maybe nothing is.
Except the guy did run up to me. Concerned that I was hurt. Over the years I've thought about that, knowing that if I had flipped a guy more than twice my size over the hood of a truck and he started walking towards me, I'd have driven off, scared, knowing what was being whispered in his ear, and tell myself that he's OK if he can walk. All the while hating the cowardice that only I knew was inside me.
The fact that he hadn't seen me was of no issue. What mattered was what I did.
Suddenly the snarl of what I understood and what I was seeing had an end, poking out, that I could grab and pull. So I did and what was a mind numbing unacceptance of reality in one instance, turned the word back into reality in another.
With one hand I grabbed his right arm, the other grabbed his neck, my thumb sliding in between the ends of his collar bones, attacking his throat, crushing it against his spine and threw him against the cinderblock wall. No need for prompting to pummel this guy.
It was then that I recognized the woman as she righted herself on the stairs. Maybe this wasn't a random attack, rather her celebrity had drawn a dangerous stalker.
I got no answer when I asked if she was OK.
I could see her countenance beginning to fold and withdraw on itself.
Her attacker laid on the ground, unable to breath. His only goal right now was to get one breath. I knew that he wouldn't be a threat for a bit.
He was fully dressed. She was fully dressed. What had seemed to be an age to me had taken no time at all. I couldn't have been more than a second behind him when he began his attack on her.
What gets me is that while I've know women that had been assaulted, it somehow never was real to me. I realized that when I had been unable to accept what I saw a moment ago, but I do know how it affects a woman and I knew what I was going to say next.
"It is OK to kick a man when he's down." I said.
She looked at me and her lip quivered. I realized that I was a bit jacked up, my adrenaline must have been flowing. My large muscles, my pecs and quads were twitching.
"I'm not going to hurt you. Him maybe, but you're safe. Give him a kick."
I saw a conflicting thought cross her mind. She just needed to get a handle on it.
"A moment ago, he may have been a big scary guy, but now look at him."
With both hands he held his throat and tried to roll over. Maybe he thought it would be easier to breath on his other side.
"Kick him. Kick him now." I was goading her with no effect.
"You do know what he was going to do, don't you" I said as I put my hands on her shoulders and helped her stand up. "You need to kick him."
I turned my voice sterner as I walked her towards him "Kick him. It's OK. He started it."
But it was when I said "He deserves it" that her foot lashed out and before I could say "again" she was on him. Kicks to the ribs and head, but he was already in fetal position, so he just kinda stayed in it. And it was here that she started to scream. I thought it was a bit late, but all I could think at the time was how little I understand women.
Before he got what he deserved, I stepped in to stop her. I wanted to get her back out of kicking range because I had a point to make and I didn't see her elbow coming up till it was to late. Vicious and scything, I knew it was going to hurt when it landed on my jaw. I think we both were a bit surprised when I deflected it with my hand.
She stepped back and I don't think I've ever seen a woman so mad. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were ablaze, she was panting and I asked her "Do you know why you're so mad?"
At this point I was teasing her. I gave her the opportunity to pummel a guy who deserved it, then I took it away. Or at least she thought I was only teasing her. She had one goal in life and it wasn't to answer me.
There was no confusing the look on her face. She did want to kill him.
"Why are you so mad at him?" I asked again.
With few options, she answered "Because he was going to rape me."
"Wrong!" I corrected her. "You are mad at him because you didn't deserve it."
Hearing that took all the rage out of her. She just began to deflate and tremble in front of me.
The whole dynamic in the stairwell changed and all remained the same. He assailant laid in the corner, his attempts at breathing sounded a bit like a trained seal at feeding time, and she stood there, trembling, shivering perhaps.
For a moment I thought her teeth were chattering. That went with the shivering appearance, but soon I realized that she was chanting something over and over.
"...didn't deserve it. I didn't deserve it. I didn't..."
I had seen pictures of US Troops from Vietnam with the thousand yard stare, distant and vacant. They don't begin to convey the dissociation between the present reality and the mind.
How the human mind can be so fragile and and so strong as to the incredible measures it's capable of to protect itself is beyond me.STANDARD DISCLAIMER:
The majority of the mundane events in the above text are true in that I have been to California and installed machinery in pharmaceutical plants. Any and all dramatic and thematic elements are works of fiction.
The beating he suffered, her long cry as I drove around the San Francisco Bay and the police officer asking me if I saw any "large suspicious characters" when I checked out were all lost when I last tried to post this. But they are part of the story and since they are covered here, this is now complete.