Sleep was the worst when it eventually came. Night terrors they call it on TV. I watched a lot of TV. I hadn’t been to bed since I returned home from the hospital. At best I dosed in front of the TV, only occasionally sinking into a deep enough sleep for the nightmares to appear. Those movies that show people sitting bolt upright, sweating and gasping isn’t just make-believe. It happens. It’s a primal fear that seems to envelope you. It makes you tremble and, more often than not, cry. I can’t live like that. I won’t live like that.
I remember this much: It was a cloudless night with a full moon and I was pretty cold. Blood loss does that. Makes you shiver. I kept my eyes on the moon until it disappeared as I entered the ambulance. I passed out.
Around £25, my bank cards, my watch and my phone. My phone might be worth a fair bit and maybe the watch, but the bank cards were cancelled. No villa on the Costa del Sol for them. They’d have to rob a lot more people for that.
14 stitches. It should have only been 13, but the doctor said I had been unlucky enough, so he put an extra one in. That’s all I need, a superstitious doctor. I guess I should be glad he didn’t shrink my head or sacrifice a chicken to save me.
I gave the police a description. The usual stuff they must hear: it was dark; I didn’t get a good look; it all happened so fast, etc. That was the truth, I guess. I’m certain I’d recognise him if I saw him, but I can’t visualise him enough to describe him. And I know, as soon as he sees me again, I’ll see that look of recognition in his face that will confirm it. And he will see me again.
Every city, in fact almost every place, has dodgy areas: the places you don’t walk alone at night and this city is no different. I’d been in one such place when stabbed and robbed. You could say it was my own fault. I’d missed my bus and so I decided to walk home. The shortest route took me through this neighbourhood.
So, yeah, if you’re thinking that it’s my fault I got stabbed and robbed because I chose to walk home, then in your mind you’re probably right. In my mind, I should be able to walk wherever I choose without fear of violence. Especially if I miss my bus and take the shortest route home. In my mind I’m probably righteous.
I spent 2 weeks in the hospital. I returned to my flat and a heap of post to open. I found myself pausing to consider the potential damage my letter opener could do if used with malice. In my mind’s eye I pictured an entity of the guy who stabbed me. I smiled.
The guy in the store had to check my ID. Technically it’s a camping knife. Technically I was going to use it for outdoor pursuits.
After a week of sitting at home, lost in my own thoughts and troubled by nightmares, I made a move. Although still not yet fully mobile, I walked the exact same route, at the exact same time as the night I was attacked. I walked the route every night. I gripped the knife tightly in my pocket every time.
Nothing happened. That frustrated me. Could it be such a random occurrence? Like the flip side of winning the lottery? No. You make your own luck.
I changed my route. It took me deeper into the heart of the neighbourhood I had skirted around when attacked. It’s a labyrinth of narrow streets, alleys and passageways. Graffiti tags and trainers looped over telephone wires mark out gang territories. Not a hospitable place for an outsider, yet people still visit daily. Drugs & prostitution seem to be the main exports of this economy. Cash, violence and intimidation are the main currencies.
I used my phone to guide me on a circuit of the estate: the dilapidated shopping centre, the pubs with heavy drawn curtains and steamed up windows, debris littering the streets. With phone in full view, it took all of half an hour for someone to approach me.
He asked me if I was lost. I said yes. He offered to walk me to where I wanted to go. I followed. We called each other mate and small talked about sports. He advised me not to walk these streets. There are some dodgy people around who’d take advantage and take the phone.
He walked me to a dead-end. He no longer called me mate. His instant aggression caught me by surprise. He was on me before I had a chance to catch my breath. He shoved me hard in the stomach and I felt as though my lucky 14 stitches were torn. A burning sensation and dampness seeped from my wound. Pushed up against a fence in the darkness I smelled the weed and the booze on his breath as he came in close. My wallet and my phone or I will die. I told him ok and he stood back arms folded. I grinned and waited long enough for that to register with him before producing my knife. It scared him momentarily and then he tried to face me down. He taunted me to do it. He didn’t have to ask twice.
The blade went in through his jacket and I felt the edge of the blade grind up against the inside of his ribs as I plunged it upwards. He screamed and I covered his mouth. He bit down hard on my hand. With no free hand I head-butted him to knock his jaws loose. His nose emitted a large cracking sound and blood splattered over his face and my forehead. His eyes rolled up into his head. He passed out.
I splashed water on his face from a leaking gutter. He was slumped up against the side of a garage. His face was a mess and his eyes and nose had already swollen. He clutched at his wound as though trying to keep the blood from leaking out of him. I knew that feeling. He tried to speak, but he caught sight of the blade in my hand and thought better of it. Dogs barked in the distance. I wasn’t sure if I’d have long, so I got to the point. “I just wanted to make sure you knew this was happening”. I grabbed his hair, pulled his head back and sliced the blade across his neck. He gurgled and panicked. He kicked his legs out and grasped at his neck. When he stopped moving, I left.
I’d expected to feel more. I was numb. But I slept soundly.