This morning at some time between 7 and 7:30, the brother and I were making our way to the subway, to go on my weekly grocery trip.
We were on East 86th, headed towards Lexington, and there were few people outside. My brother walked ahead of me (as one of his goals for the weekend was to lead and show direction). We noticed a man, looking a bit disheveled and unkempt (scruffy uneven beard an all). Perhaps a stereotypical EDP/SED. Paying him not much mind, we continue on our way. You could tell based on the man’s appearance and the look on his face that something wasn’t right with him.
In my hand is a plastic reusable Trader Joe’s shopping bag (which contains 3 other reusable bags) that I plan on utilizing at the stores.
After we walk past the gentleman, all of the sudden, I feel this sharp “tug” pulling me in the direction opposite that which I was traveling.
The man from the sidewalk had grabbed my bag handles and was trying to take my bags. Instantly, my right hand, holding the bags, developed a vice-like grip. I turned to the man, and yelled “what the hell”, piercing the silence of the morning. The man and I made eye contact, and I had an intense “don’t mess with me” look on my face. This man, who now crossed the line in my book to thief, simply stared at me. His hands dssaperead from my bags.
Up a few feet ahead, The Brother, who is always anxious, had a concerned look on his face. Not only was he startled by the scene he saw, he also knows that it’s extremely rare for me to yell like i did.
The look in the man’s eyes was that between someone who was both confused and possessed. I’m not sure if he was fully cognizant of what he was doing. After re-gripping my bag, to leave no slack in the handle, The Brother and I went on our way. The Brother asked “what happened” and before I explained, I look back to see the man wandering aimlessly about the sidewalk.
Throughout the rest of today this morning’s incident has been bothering me on multiple levels. Some of these thoughts were instantaneous others have formulated over the course of the day.
Of course I’ve been asking “what-if.what could have been ” questions but these are some of the more solid ones.
The first is a sense of trouble that such a thing could happen in the first place. The area in which I live is usually rather tranquil, and the most common crimes seem to occur from intoxication at one of the many nearby bars. It’s a “sleepy’ area in that sense, as the area is a mix of young people and families. When The Brother and The Sister and I went back to the subway later in the morning, I noticed the man sitting in the ATM vestibule near where he had accosted me. I pointed him out ot The Sister, and The Brother verified my identification. To think that he was still in the area, and in an ATM lobby no less. That’s a bit spooky.
The second thing that’s perturbed me is that something could have happened to my Brother. While I’m glad nothing happened to him directly (maybe a little scare), I do feel a sense of pride that I was able to keep him out of harms way. Perhaps pride is not the right word–relief may be more appropriate.
Third, I wondered immediately afterward weather simply yelling at the guy was enough. Of course the idea ran through my head that maybe a physical message could have been delivered–but I think that would have ultimately been counter productive. Since the man “dropped” things when I yelled, there was and shouldn’t have been any need to escalate things further.
Fourth, sort of following on the previous thought, there probably was no need to get the police or 311 involved. It’s not worth their time or my time to file a report. Nor do I think they’d be able to do anything with the mystery man. I don’t think they’d have the authority to get the man some mental-health help (without him voluntarily going).
Fifth, as the day has progressed, and I think about this morning’s episode more, I’m only left to wonder–what if this altercation was the man’s way of seeking help. The man never spoke or made any verbalization. That look I saw in his eyes seemed to really reveal that he was a troubled individual. His physical appearance in and of itself provided ample evidence to that diagnosis; but the look in his eyes, showed something much deeper. He really seemed to be a confused man. His lack of speech, empathy or visible emotion as well spoke louder than any words would have.
I’m left to wonder–was this man possibly not seeking my belongings, but seeking help for his troubles? What troubles me is the curiosity–what could I have done to help this man? Why me of all people? Was this some sort of test, like the parables I was taught in Day School about interactions with a stranger? How was I supposed to respond?
I’m at a bit of a loss in all this. Ultimately though, I’m simply happy that my brother and I are both safe and no one got hurt in the process.