And Sometimes, We Forget
by Stewart Wilson
The early hours see the city quiet once more. Not dead, there are still taxis ferrying club patrons home, police vans speeding to the locations of the latest fights, but once I get away from the station and the town centre, things quiet down. There's a grand total of three people plus me on the road, and only when that hits me do I realise where I am and what I'm doing. I must be insane.
Two and a half years ago I walked this same route. Over the river from the club, through the town centre, then down past the hospital. I stopped there, for breath and to save my aching legs. That's where I was mugged.
It's strange. Even in my own head there's a perverse need to dress up the event, to make me seem less of a coward. I want to give the two fuckers who gave me a beating knives, or say that there were more of them. I want to say that I reacted, fought back rather than clumsily defending myself. Let's be honest here, I want to stop myself looking so weak. In truth, there were two of them. Younger than me. The violence wasn't much compared to what it could have been, a black eye, a broken nose, and a lot of general aches. But the shock of it was the worst thing.
Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. I was fortunate in that regard, but I should have known better to try walking the six miles home at night. I was stupid. Since then, I've not left the house without something I can use as a weapon, even in broad daylight. Out at night I always carry a torch. For two whole weeks after the event I was scared to go out alone at night. Knowing that I was going to walk through the same area brought that cold fear right back, gnawing at the corners of my mind.
I can't help but look around as I walk. There are still only three people walking, all going the same way as me, all a good distance away. Nobody coming in the other direction. I breathe hard and keep walking, one foot in front of the other. One hand in my pocket, grasping the handle of the small knife I carry there. It would probably be useless or worse in a fight, but it does help. The scene from that night comes back to me. No grins on the faces of the two, just a look of hollow necessity, an addict doing what it must to afford the next fix and getting enraged when that was not forthcoming. I quicken my pace.
My heart's racing as I get to the hospital. I keep putting one foot in front of the other, stepping once, then twice, then thrice and on past the place. I look around again, over one shoulder then the other. The only sound apart from my footsteps is a wino vomiting in a side street. I don't spare a glance.
Past the hospital I finally pause on top of the flyover, and look back. Sometimes, we do things which make us remember things that we ourselves have buried or changed, things where we try to remember ourselves as heroes rather than as just taking advantage. These memories of even the smallest, pettiest things can be painful in their own way, and having them dredged back up is often not a nice event. But sometimes, we can learn from them. Go over what happened and hope that we have learned from the events by the reliving. And sometimes, we forget. The people and places involved have less of an impact, helping us to discard the memory.
I turn and walk on.