hit and run

A few years ago, my aunt and uncle came to visit San Francisco. They are not big travelers, and are also
from Staten Island, so they were very excited to be in a
big city. They stayed down in Fisherman’s Wharf, because they heard that that
was the place to be, and they picked me up from work early in the day and we
drove everywhere. We went to the beach, and museums, and shopping, and then we
stopped for dinner, and afterwards, they wanted to drive me home. No, no, it’s
out of your way, and a pain in the butt to get back to your hotel from my
house, I told them. I’m fine. They pulled out the map and said show us how to
get back!

It was one of those tourist maps, where half of the city is
compressed into three blocks so as to fit the whole city in one 8 x 12 sheet of
paper. The concierge at their hotel had starred their hotel, circled a couple
of places of interest, and drew a big box around a group of blocks near Civic
Center and cross hatched it out of existence. "What’s this?" I asked
them, pointing at the block. "Oh, the guy told us not to go there under
any circumstances! It’s the most dangerous neighborhood in San Francisco," my aunt said. "Oh," I said.
"Well, uh. That’s where I live. Right there in the middle."

I lived in the Tenderloin—which is shady, for sure, but less
shady in some spots than others—for four years, and I never had a problem. The crack whores were friendly, and the
heroin addicts were mostly interested in their own business, and occasionally
you’d get someone who’d get upset if you didn’t give them a quarter, but for
the most part, I felt safe. I have always felt safe in this city, wherever I’ve
gone—even walking down the sketchier blocks, in the less classy neighborhoods.
I’ve had moments of trepidation, and I’ve felt a little stupid, glancing around
and keeping my eyes open and trying to walk tough and sneer tougher, but I have
never really for a moment felt like something could actually happen to me.

This is, possibly, a stupid and naïve attitude; I mean,
anything could happen, at any instant. I know that. I’ve lived through that
absolutely unexpected moment where everything is perfectly ordinary one moment
and then there is that monstrous sense of vertigo and wrongness where you
cannot understand what is going on and how it could possibly happen. But I was
seventeen, I was at the beach, in a terrible neighborhood, far from everything
and everyone at 1:00 in the morning, which was so very stupid, so of course I
was attacked, right? I wouldn’t be that stupid again. For seventeen years, I
have managed to not be stupid. Let’s put it this way: for seventeen years, I’ve
been lucky, and have felt perfectly safe and I don’t want to stop thinking that
I am generally safe, and I don’t want to be terrified to leave my house, to
walk to the train from my friend’s, to go anywhere and do anything. But my
hands are scraped up and bloody and my elbow is aching and my hip has developed
a spectacular bruise and I am fine
but sometimes I don’t feel so fine, and I hate it so much.

I was walking up 14th Street,
on the phone with my mother, who is awake at all hours and partying at Disney
World. And then, I was being pulled backwards and yanked around, and I didn’t
understand what the fuck had happened, and I looked, and there was a man, a
boy, some rotten motherfucking kid, hanging on to my bag and pulling, and I got
angry. I got so angry and I held on to my bag and I screamed "Get the fuck away from me, you stupid
" and he didn’t, and I wanted to hurt him and punch him and
kick him and bite him and I hung on and he kept pulled. He yanked me off my
feet, off the curb and I landed on my hip and my elbow in the street. My other
hand scraped across the pavement and I was hanging on to my bag and screaming
and screaming and finally, finally he was gone, running across the street and
up over a fence and away and I sat there and I was fine and I fought back and probably,
that was so stupid, but I was so angry and I was fine and I didn’t feel fine at all, and I wanted him to come back,
and I wanted to tear his head off and I wanted to say how
dare you?

A woman came running across the street and asked if I was
okay, and a guy with a dog did a quick look down the block to see if he could
tell where the kid went but he was long gone. The woman walked me down the
block to Guerrero, and then I ran up the street, all the way to the train and I
sat down at my stop and I cried, awhile. I am fine.

14 Replies to “hit and run”

  1. Oh fuck. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say, other than, I guess, thank god? I mean, because it could have been so much worse?

    But maybe that’s not helpful, I never know what is helpful and what is a useless platitude. (You know, “woohoo, you were only knocked down and almost robbed and scared out of your wits…how great that it wasn’t worse!” somehow sounds weird.)

    So, just, fuck. I’m sorry.

    Oh, wait, how about this:

    You’re a badass! Way to scare of that pursesnatcher! Those Mormons better stay outta Anne’s way!

    Just to make you smile.

  2. That’s awful! I am glad you weren’t hurt.

    I remember the same feeling of shock, horror, and shame when my English friend was PUSHED off the T in Boston. We were on the way to the airport. The trolley car was full, and as we wrestled a heavy suitcase off, we had to get through a group of teenagers. We didn’t move quickly enough getting down the steep trolley steps, so they slapped me on the back of the head, and as I turned to shout, they pushed my friend right out of the car.

    Luckily, she managed to land on her feet even with the suitcase coming down behind her, but it was very frightening. I was shouting and they were yelling at us, and it was horrible.

    I was embarrassed that my friend was returning to London with such an awful impression of American, but it really shook me that after 4 safe years, my lovely city was indeed, an unsafe place.

  3. Oh, pumpkin! I want to run right over there and hug you ridiculous and give you Mickey Mouse band-aids.

    But as I’m a total stranger, that might freak you out a wee bit more, nu?

  4. In 1987-88, right after college, I lived in the Mission. One pre-dawn morning on my way to work, I got “robbed” at the 16th St. Bart Station. He took my wallet but after I screamed a bizillion profanities and blocked his way, some men came running and punched him and my wallet was returned to me. He disappeared, the BART policed chastised me for fighting back. Nothing bad happened. But the neighborhood was never the same for me again. I moved six months later to the Richmond District, not entirely because of that incident, but it figured into things…

  5. jesus honey. i think you should move. to Utah!

    (you’re allowed to not be fine, you know)

    i have to ask, your aunt and uncle? isn’t staten island, like 30 minutes away from manhattan? i think you should get them a map for christmas.

  6. Anne, sweetie, I’m so sorry! I’m glad you kept your purse, though, and I’m so glad he wasn’t armed or anything. My friend got mugged in almost the exact same way on the exact same part of 14th a couple of months ago. That area is getting awful for things like that. She was listening to her ipod and pretty much the exact same chain of events happened except he did get her wallet before she could grab him. Anyway, *BIG HUG* and again, I’m so sorry.

    Stupid Mission pricks. I swear the hipsters draw pickpockets like flies.

  7. Oh Anne, that SUCKS. And you *are* allowed to be not fine, and I am glad for your sake that it wasn’t worse, and I hope that you’ve had lots and lots and lots of folks taking care of you today, because you deserve it. That stuff is just awful, and I’m so sorry that it happened to you.

  8. Oh sweetie, I’m glad you’re okay. (And also, we totally parked in the Tenderloin this weekend thanks to my mother in law’s insistence on cheap parking. But all we got was a whiff of urine and requests for money.)

  9. Wow, I’m so glad you weren’t seriously hurt! *hugs*

    I’ve lived in NYC for the past 12 years, and I’ve felt/been relatively safe. However, on a solo weekend away at my grandmother’s beach house last year, I was scared out of my fucking mind by a man lurking outside the house — all the breath left my body, I couldn’t even scream, nothing came out above a whisper. He proceeded to tell me he’d been watching me and had been taking pictures of me on his cellphone.

    I called 911, he ran, and was caught a month later — he’d done it to nine other women.

    It didn’t reach the physical level, thank God, but the damage is done: The one place in the world I saw as my escape, my warm and fuzzy safe place, where I’d spent so many happy times as a kid, has been tainted. I don’t feel safe there by myself yet; it’s a huge loss for me. I’ll get back there by myself one day, I hope (well, with my new doggie — she’s my muscle).

    Good for you for hanging on to your voice, and hanging in there. You’re an inspiration!

  10. Ok, this isn’t a funny post so I don’t mean to leave a funny comment, but, Sasha, you totally made me spit out my diet Coke.

    I, too, thought the exact same thing when I read the post: her aunt and uncle live on Staten Island (one of NYC’s five boroughs) and they were excited to go to a big city? I mean, San Fran is great, I love that city, but they ARE minutes away from Manhattan…! That made me smile.

    Anyway, on a serious note, I’ll also latch onto another thing Sasha said: you ARE allowed to NOT be fine, Anne….

  11. I’m sorry Anne. I was attacked once and it’s done me so much damage in so many ways. I used to be like Jodie Foster in “The Brave One” but luckily I never had a gun.
    I had to stop, though, when I took on this woman twice my size at a concert and dragged other people into it because she got in front of me, blocking my view. I scared her off, and there big GUYS THANKING ME, if you can believe it!
    But I realized I can’t endanger other people with my anger. It’s bad enough putting myself in dangerous situations trying to get revenge.

  12. What a scary horrible experience. And, yeah, what everyone else said, you are not only allowed, but entitled and, hey, kind of expected, to be NOT fine. Now, later, whenever.

  13. Anne,

    I’m so sorry this happened, but glad that it wasn’t worse. Just hang in there and take care of yourself. I would feel completely violated and angry, too.

  14. You’re allowed to be fine but you’re also allowed to be scared as shit and upset later on if you feel that way. I’m just glad you’re here but oh, so sorry that this happened to you. **hugs**

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