The first blow is administered by the one-armed man while his accomplice stands
about thirty yards away and laughs. He kicks the white boy hard in the ass,
and the kid collapses. The boy’s eyes roll upward, and there is little doubt
about the severity of the injury. He starts to get up, then collapses again,
and another blow is delivered, this time into the man’s right leg, causing
an almost identical amount of damage. The man stands stock still as we begin
to shout and wave our arms, while a few yards away police try to pull our
boy’s car out of the mud. In that instant of silence everyone wonders where
the police are.
“If these people just keep stabbing and kicking and punching and kicking in the
same place, the police would have an all time record! No, I won’t say it
“Oh yeah? Well, I guess you’re just another one of those rich white boys who
just won’t shut up. Well, get over there and kill them. I want a clear shot
at that cop, and you, get back here. And you too, and you other one, you
The police officers move to get the one-armed man into the cuffs, but the man
doesn’t get there, instead taking a run at the man they had been trying to
capture. One of the cops fires, but the shot is wild and misses the man, who
falls back into the mud. There is a flurry of gunfire, and we all stand
there, watching in awe, a moment of quiet, as the man on the road writhes and
stumbles around, screaming in agony, not moving an inch and not bleeding from
any of his wounds.
We don’t know if it is meant to be a clear shot, if he was actually killed, or
he is a man so strong that he is indestructible by his wounds. We also don’t
know how many bullets were fired into the man, how many times the police
attempted to subdue him with only one bullet, all the while the man was in
the mud and the gun was still smoking. It’s not clear if the man will die or
not, but we watch as he writhes in agony, a man still alive, and in a very
difficult position. He is the one in the mud. He is not moving. His face is
gaunt and battered. One of his eyes is swollen shut. His body is contorted,
his limbs contorted, his head contorted.
We have no idea what will happen to him. He is not dying. He is not dead. He
is in deep pain, and he cannot move for his injuries. He is beyond us, as far
as we know anyway.
The first policeman who saw the man had been fired upon, and he ran down the
street. He heard another shot—maybe it was not the shot fired by one of the
man’s assailants, but it was certainly his, and he turned to run back to
help the wounded man. Just as he turns, his partner opens fire. The man fell
to the ground, the bullet going through his forehead and into his skull.
The man in the mud who was shot by one of our policemen is not dead yet. He is
not dead yet. His injuries are not life threatening. He is just barely within
the parameters of the law. In law, he would be dead, but by our standards he
is not, and so, just barely close enough for us to care.
But our attention is on where the police might be, and we are all thinking to
ourselves about the possibility that they are dead. And to our surprise, there
is a cop with a radio, standing still, waiting us to make more shots. And
then, as we watch, a car comes by, the driver honking and turning his lights
off. The officer at the radio calls out to the driver as he passes us, but
the man ignores him, and keeps moving down the road.
In this moment of silence, of quiet despair, you could almost hear the crackle
of the man’s bones as he gave up his life. You could almost hear his scream of
anguish as his flesh seared and his bones cracked.
Then the car passes, and the officer looks back and waves us on.
“Come on,” he says.
You can almost hear it, the sound of the radio as it bleeps and cracks as the
officer tries to call for help on the radio, the sound as the voice of the
caller shakes with fear and desperation. You can almost hear some of the
officers looking back to make sure that the man on the road did not move,
because that would be the end of them.
We don’t have to hear them call for help, but we stop and we stare at the
man’s mangled body and we laugh, and we laugh for a long time.
By the time we get to the hospital, the boy is being
dilauded—blood is pouring out of his face and chest, and the police
officers are trying to cut away the layers of clothing he has on.
But there is no way the police know what the boy—and his attacker—are going
to do now, and that means there is no way they are going to find us, and so
the police just wait for us, and we wait, and we laugh, and we laugh for
another hour. The man in the mud didn’t die, and they didn’t arrest him. He
just got lucky, just by being on scene. Then we made it to the hospital, and
we watched the doctors put a needle into the boy’s neck, a needle that
will be used to drain out his blood, and we talked for a long time, just
laying there, at the hospital, in the quiet, quiet room, and watching the
dying man, watching him lose his last bit of humanity.
Then we headed back home, and we went back to our own home, where our own
families were waiting for us. The rest is history.
We know who the man on the road was, but we don’t want to know why. We just
want to be left alone, because we know we are not our victims, but our
victims are us.
In that moment of quiet despair, I am reminded of how to speak to the young
women who have been sexually abused by an older man. I know where to begin,
and I know what to say. They are not my victims, they are not responsible,
and they are not even the people I have to make peace with. They are people
I just live with. The people who I can go to for support, who I can talk
to and listen to.
But what about the person the man on the road looked like? He was a man who—in our
eyes—looked like a man who deserved to get killed.
In spite of
all of the things we might do as a society to try to erase our history of
violence against women, women still have to deal with violence against