a snatchingly bad evening

To my immense disappointment, violin and violate are not etymologically related. I wanted to link them together somehow, make an opaque funny, shake up a little snowglobe of oblique attack on the main topic. But it's not to be. So let me approach this differently. You know those scenes in movies in which the intrepid hero runs down a bicyclist who's just snatched his wife/best gal's purse? I found two nights ago that the movies lie. They lie like apes. It turns out that a guy on a bike who sails by, rips a purse from Schmutzie's shoulder and keeps on going, cannot be caught by me, running flat-out, all 145 out o' shape pounds of me flapping around, screaming after him as he pedals casually around a corner and out of our lives.

From the scattered paragraph above you can deduce that the Schmutz got robbed on Monday night. We were on our way to somewhere decent for supper, just outside our building. I heard the whizzing of a bicycle chain behind us and then he passed on our left, a subtle bump and then a startled "Hey!" from Schmutzie. And then I started running and shouting, my legs kicking up behind me. I ran even when I knew that he was long gone but only a block away. We didn't even see his face.

I have never been robbed like that ( I say 'I' even though it was Schmutzie's purse - call me solipsistic). I've had a jacket stolen after I left it in a Tim Horton's at 3am. I've had people take my wallet when I left it exposed. I even had my identity stolen once, out of the barest scraps of ID. Some kid passed a bunch of bad cheques in my name (the RCMP spent months looking for me and fortunately they found the kid first). But all those things have happened out of my view, and they felt about as relevant as news items about tragedies in foreign countries. I had a laugh with an RCMP officer about the crimiPalinode embezzling in my name and the fact that a warrant briefly existed for my arrest. Schmutzie has a longer and more intimate relationship with violation than I do, having had apartments broken into, backpacks stolen, men pursuing her, but I believe that having her purse suddenly grabbed and gone in an instant, before she had a chance to even understand what she had lost, was new to her as well.

Being mugged suddenly and radically revises your view of things. The mugger breaks into the protective space that you project around yourself, the bit of air that you claim as your own, and demonstrates that the space is not yours at all, that it is part of the outside world, the public world, for better or for worse. You see that you exist in closer relation with the rest of the world than you had thought. Suddenly every stranger and every doorway you see becomes a potential threat, a possible vector of harm. You see your own helplessness, the swarm of possibilities set to divebomb your sense of security. And you suddenly want to ditch almost every sociological argument for crime you've ever heard or repeated, and go stalking the streets with a gun or a bat. Endemic poverty and poor circumstances be damned - you just got victimized and you want to commit some violence. You want to revisit that violation on someone else, break into their space and show them what you just saw. I suddenly understood the kneejerk anger and bigotry of certain people - after being made a victim, especially with such ease, you are diminished, and you rage for the lost mass.

After that initial reaction, though, things got a little better. I know that Schmutzie was and still is pretty shaken up, not least because her purse was new and vintage, her wallet new, and her uber-cool Moleskine notebook full of her writing (Enjoy her poetry, you stupid-ass crystal-meth-smoking soft-toothed motherfucker!). It was that sudden view into helplessness that angered me so much.


My browser spat up a popup window this morning that said: "We're sorry, this service is not available in Canada". That's a bit like someone driving across town to tell me I can't have the sandwich they just made at home.