(This post is unedited on purpose. Spelling and grammar errors are meant to show the distraction that I feel right now. I needed to write so I wrote and maybe it is not enough but it’s a start to keeping my breath steady and deep.)
I don’t know who reads these things, I don’t know where you’ve been, the things you’ve seen, the paths you’ve walked, the things you’ve lost along the way. But, if you have ever been mugged, I want you to know that we officially have one more thing to talk about over coffee.
That’s right, mugged.
Thankfully, I wasn’t beat up in a back alley or anything like that. I wasn’t physically harmed in any way. I like to think that was God’s doing. For all I know, the man who pulled a knife on me could have been looking for someone to harm but chose not to for no discernable reason.
It happened like this:
My friend and I had gone for a late picnic about a mile away from my house. As the sun was setting we packed up our stuff and went for a walk about the park. This park is quite large, several kilometers in circumference, and we walked nearly to the south end, watching the sunset and the food vendors and the yawning babies. We came to a stone staircase with seats at the top and we sat down and continued our conversations about the absurdity of studying abroad, the people we left behind, and things we want to see coming in the future. The sun had set and we stayed, just like everyone tells you not to, we stayed. Maybe it was the fact that we had survived 3 months without any incident, maybe it was that we do not have the time to not keep talking, but we stayed.
As soon as I saw him coming up the staircase, I knew. I knew he was going to assault us and I knew there was nothing we could do about it. The stranger approached us and spoke in (quite good) English “hello, how are you?” and then he pulled out a knife and pointed it at my chest. “Money, money, give me money” he said. I don’t know if we replied in Spanish or English but I tried to tell him I had money in my backpack, I reached for my backpack and he grabbed me and pushed the knife closer “Relax, money.” He moved his knife and held it to the neck of my friend and the fists my hands had been clenched in relaxed, I watched as he kept the knife at his neck, patted both of us down, grabbed our stuff, and sprinted away.
“Do we go after him?” I asked.
“No.” He replied.
And then I finally let go of my breath.
We were strangely calm as we stood up and walked away. When we reached light we both turned and hugged each other in a way that only those who share a traumatic experience can hug. The further we walked the more I had to fight to keep the bad spirits of anxiety away. We found some traffic cops and they called the police for us. We filed a report that we knew would do absolutely nothing and returned to my house where I all but begged my friend not to leave because I was afraid to be left alone.
But now I am alone and all I can do is think about that knife and all the things I have learned of fear and whether or not the man who robbed us has children. And I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I asked my friend to come to the park with me. I feel guilty that he will forever carry the knowledge that he was one swipe of a blade away from bleeding out in a foreign country. I feel guilty that I did not react as soon as I saw him coming. I feel guilty that I was careless. I feel guilty that I am privileged enough to carry around extra cash and an iPhone and do not have to steal from others to survive. I feel guilty that this happened a mile from my house and not during the time when I travelled alone and could have been the only person who had to bear the weight of the polarity of the world.
I am praying for that man and I am praying for myself, that I don’t have nightmares of this event, as my brain tends to do with trauma. I don’t know what I would do if I saw that man again, I don’t know if I would approach him or if I would run. I was going to give him every cent I had but that would not have been enough and that doesn’t make sense to me so I will sit in my room and shake and hope that someday the world is safe enough that humans are no longer categorized into Have’s and Have Not’s.
Please love those around you. Please hold hands with your friends and kiss your mothers on the cheek. And if someone looks like they need help, help them, because sooner or later they may reach a point where they have to help themselves in the only way they know how. Please pray for me and my fear and my heart. Please pray that I do not become even more hardened to the world but am broken even more every day in order to let some sort of truth seep into my cracks. I am afraid of a lot of things, but walking at night was not one of them, walking at night was a refuge, the stars and the streetlights are supposed to be my refuge and I do not want to lose that.
I began forgiving that man the second he pulled the knife out, but I have yet to forgive myself, a battle that is far more long and bloody than all the rest. I forgive that man, and I hope he knows it. I hope he feels it. I hope he lies awake at night knowing that God did not intend for him to live like this and that if he ever sees me he does not have to fall to my feet to find kindness. I do not know where to go from here.
I am confused, I am shaken, I am okay.