Sorry, We're Closed

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

and your life changes in an instant

Nearly three weeks ago, I was mugged.

It happened on a Wednesday night. A friend and I went walking on the beach near where I live. Usually the beach, even at night, is crowded enough to be safe. This night, about 10:00, it suddenly thinned out, and we were triangled by three young men.

We immediately knew we had been targeted and would soon be acosted. Which we were. The triangle got smaller, and we were prey.

My friend says he heard nothing the young men said, but they made odd, inappropriate conversation ("Hey, we're from New York...we're just trying to talk to you..."). My friend and I tried to walk away, but were hit from behind.

I was punched, really hard, in the back, and knocked over. One guy held me down and the other began reaching for my wallet. I heard my friend yelling, "Stop it! Stop it!" before he was, himself, hit in the face with a blunt object (possibly a brick) by the third assailant.

When the two young men grabbed and held me, I immediately went limp, not moving at all, not even to help make it easier for them to take my wallet. Too shocked to fight back, I just mentally blacked out. My friend, stunned by the blow he'd received, said nothing.

Once the three young men had taken our wallets, they ran away. I instinctively got up and chased them, ignoring my friend's pleas not to.

I chased the three attackers a couple of blocks' worth of beach before giving up at the corner of Sheridan and Thorndale.

At that point, I began to realize just how badly I'd been hurt. My back was throbbing. I was furious and desperate, knowing that the next day I was supposed to get on an airplane to go to my brother's wedding. What would I do without a wallet?

Some guy on the beach, who I'd screamed at to stop the thieves while I was chasing them (but hadn't), was still there. As I walked back toward my friend on the beach, hoping to find him okay, I passed the guy. He asked me what was wrong, and I began cursing at him. We nearly got into it right there.

My friend was no longer there. I had left him, probably badly hurt, to chase these three morons, and nearly gotten into another altercation.

I found my wallet in the path of where the thieves had run. It was emptied of the FIVE DOLLARS that had been inside. None of my cards or ID were gone.

Thoroughly confused, angry, sad, and in a lot of pain, I gathered up my sandy wallet and walked back toward my house. My wife was out of town, but maybe my friend had made his way back there. Maybe I'd run into a cop. God, my back hurt, and I could barely see straight.

The first thing I thought was, maybe I'll see these three punks. So I'd better be equipped. I walked into an alley on Thorndale between Sheridan and Kenmore and picked up three sharp rocks. If I didn't see them, at least in my delirious anger, I'd at least be able to break a window or a street light or something.

When I got to Broadway and Thorndale, I saw two cops bugging two young gay men about something or other. When I staggered up to them, the cops realized that my case was probably more serious and let the young fellas go.

These two cops, both ladies, were kind and solicitous, but as soon as I got into the car, they hardly listened to a word I said. I told them where the young punks had gone, and they drove in the opposite direction. I told them where I'd been hurt, and they drove the other way. Finally, I heard my friend's last name over the police radio, along with an address on Sheridan. I assumed that my friend had gone there to report the crime, and asked the cops to drop me off.

This they did. I saw my friend sitting on a chair in the lobby of a high-rise condo holding a huge towel to his face. The towel was covered in blood. I immediately began to cry in sadness and guilt, not having realized how badly he was hurt.

At least he was able to walk, but he knew his nose had been broken. The policemen on the scene took a statement from me as I lay curled on the ground in a fetal position, and we were then herded into an ambulance.

The ambulance personnel appeared to be stoned, as they were even less competent than the cops who had picked me up. They didn't even realize that I was hurt, asking only my friend for his bio information.

Unfortunately, they then took us to Weiss, a hospital in Uptown, and the nightmare continued. We sat in a waiting room for 30 minutes as the few staff who were actually there couldn't admit us, because there was no room in the ER. My friend continued to bleed profusely and I still couldn't be comfortable unless I lay on the floor.

A young black man was obviously overdosing on something, as he slid out of his chair in the waiting room and began to vomit yellow, flourescent-colored liquid. My friend and I realized that we had to get the FUCK out of there, and tried calling other area hospitals. Ravenswood Hospital? Full ER. Northwestern Memorial? Full ER.

We finally called St. Francis in Evanston, and they had space. So we took a cab all the way up to Evanston.

They took care of us there. My friend was diagnosed with a broken nose, for which he had surgery two days later. I got a prescription for Ibuprofen (I didn't want anything stronger, as I know that it would be easy for me to become addicted to painkillers).

The next day, my friend got his wallet back, minus $60. He had already cancelled all his credit cards and such.

My friend went through his process of anger and grief in his own way. He has a spiritual path and used it. I wouldn't claim to know where he is in the process, though; you can say you're one place with reckoning, but the next day you may feel different.

Along with pain in my back (and, increasingly, my right hip), I am clearly suffering from PTSD. I've been replaying the incident in my head since it happened, although a bit less of late, always hoping for a better outcome, one in which I beat the crap out of these punk kids. I've been angry, very depressed, and physically low.

My brother's wedding was difficult. I was feeling physically like crap, and emotionally worse, but had to be kind and attentive and, besides, I wanted to be there. The wedding was beautiful, and I love my brother's wife and her family and friends.

But family things are often stressful, and it wasn't relaxing. Two days after coming home, our band had an acoustic show, and that wore me out as well. There's been a lot to do of late, and I haven't taken much time to recover.

What I'm realizing is that I generally have no idea of how to respond to serious trauma, be it emotional or physical--and especially when it's both. I am so driven and so full of creative energy that not being physically well tends to devastate me. Add to that the random feelings of anger, violence, helplessness, and depression that have popped up...

Of course, I'm happy to be alive. I'm happy my friend is alive. They could have hit me a few inches to the left and cracked my spine. They could have ruptured my kidney. But when you have to be thankful just that your attackers didn't hurt you worse, you're obviously dealing with a fucked-up situation.

It's not as if we can really afford to pay hospital bills. I've lost time from working, lost two weeks to the emotional drain of recovery, lost some of my faith in the people who I live with and near. This is my neighborhood. I live in the city. I put my tax dollars into the city, and I buy locally, and to be beaten up and robbed by three little fuckheads...

It's not the first time in my life I've been beat up. I was sexually assaulted when I was a child. For a large portion of my younger years, I was physically abused at school. I've often been bullied in work situations, even sometimes by friends. And the first thing I wanted to do after getting off that beach was to beat the hell out of somebody. Preferably the creeps who robbed and beat us, but SOMEBODY.

And that's the kind of anger I've been going through. Yes, I know that poor city kids have a tough life. I understand that; I see it every day. But when anyone harms you physically, they've crossed a line. They've removed any sympathy that I might give to their cause. And I don't care what happens to them.

And for me, that may be the worst thing: that I no longer care about what happens to these kids. That will probably be what I'm left with at the end. Not the physical pain, although it's taking its sweet time going away; not the financial loss, which is certainly not as bad as it could have been.

No, what I'm afraid might happen is that I end up like many idealists burned once too many times. I don't want to be one of those sour people who hate cities, hate kids, hate "minorities," hate everything.

God, please don't let me become that.

It's a struggle. And I'm fighting. But the whole point is that I don't want to fight.

For those of you who are hearing about this event for the first time in this blog, please accept my apology. It's hard to talk about it in person--it's hard to even write about it--and this seemed the best way to explain the basic facts of the event.

Love and Peace.

10 Comments:

Blogger amo said...

i'm so sorry you had to experience this, stu. such a senseless act (at least, to our minds).

will pray for a quick recovery and return to peaceful and ptsd-free life.

peace to you.

12:58 PM, May 24, 2006

 
Anonymous Amy said...

oh honey I'm sorry!!!!
I wish I had some words of comfort for you but all I can say is that I am glad you are alive, and that they did not break your back.

I'm thinking healing thoughts for you, that your spirit recovers and you can regain your psychic balance in this world.

damn... violation.... grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

peace, my friend.

Amy

1:01 PM, May 24, 2006

 
Anonymous Mary D said...

Stu,
I'm glad you've blogged about it. I hope it helps you heal.

We love you.

6:27 PM, May 24, 2006

 
Anonymous gail said...

Hey sweetie. What horrible news. I am sending what love and peace I can send from London. When I get back, I promise you a hig (a gentle one). I will even let you come to my house and drop pots on the pavement. It is avctually quite cathartic. Take care of your self.

10:22 AM, May 25, 2006

 
Anonymous Jennifer Adams Kelley said...

((((stuart)))

11:26 AM, May 26, 2006

 
Blogger Bob Purse said...

Hey, Stu,

I can barely even begin to put into words my thoughts upon reading this. How absolutely horrible for you, and for your friend. How totally senseless, not the least because you probably have given them the five dollars, without a fight, but more because, in the space of a few minutes, these young men may have managed to change your basic perceptions about the larger groups to which they belong.

Beyond all that, how terrible to experience anything that violent, whether by accident or by someone's design, to the point where you are still physically not the same as you were the moment before it happened.

I hope that you are able to figure out what you need to do to survive, get through and past this, and arrive at a good point again, and that you are able to do those things again.

I'm sure it was hard to write this, and I'm sure everyone here would welcome the chance to know how things are going in the future.

Bob

6:24 AM, May 29, 2006

 
Blogger Florence Yoo said...

dearest stu,

i am so sorry to hear that this happened. you are in my thoughts and prayers!

also, thank you for the kind comment...

you rule!

love,
florence

12:43 PM, June 09, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't Give Up On People, You are too Special of a Guy. I love you Stu so does everyone out there. Don't take what they did to you personally. That was just an act of violence. Look at yourself what a wonderful person you are worring about your frined when this happened to you. You have the inner strength to overcome this and more.

2:27 PM, June 10, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:31 AM, July 19, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:14 PM, July 22, 2006

 

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