I was conditioned to stay silent at the sight of something wrong. Taught to not speak up and instead act as if I saw nothing, and I complied… for a little while… Until the guilt became too great. That was my mistake. I was thirsty for a life away from the slums of Brooklyn, away from the rapes and the muggings, but I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t leave because I was destined to find out what I had become. A heartless robot. Well… that has all changed now. Walking home that day I saw an old man walking down the street with his cane making splashes on the sidewalk. It was raining. I saw the two boys, no more than 17, approach him. I felt the menace in their hearts, yet I did nothing. I sensed what they were about to do yet I said nothing. I had become nothing and nothing was going to change that, or so I thought.
They came up to him all casual like. Asking him how he was, seeming to care for just a moment. The old man smiled his yellow smile and even offered a laugh. It was over so quickly yet it seemed to go by in slow motion. He laughed, boy number one in the red sweat pants grabbed his shoulder, and I felt the old mans sudden apprehension in the midst of his laughter. Boy number two in the gray hooded sweatshirt punched the old man in the back of the head. I kept walking. I kept my head down and my eyes straight ahead but I could feel the way the air shook with fear from the old man, adrenaline from the two boys. I couldn’t help but glance back once I reached the end of the block. I didn’t need to, I could smell the blood despite the rain. It was everywhere. Then they were running. They were running towards me and I just turned and kept walking.
They got to me quicker than I would have thought. I let them. My whole life had come to this moment. My whole existence of turning the other cheek, of seeing and not speaking up for what I knew was wrong, had brought me to this moment. Boy number one grabbed me, his red sweats stained with the blood of the old man. Boy two pulled my hair back until I fell to the ground. They dragged me into the black alley with the broken pipes and the rats and the garbage on the ground. My sweater was ripped, my jeans cut to pieces. my shoes thrown. I didn’t scream. I didn’t move. I waited, as if paralyzed. Boy number one pulled down his sweats while boy number two spread my legs. I let them. Boy number one was sweating and the smell was putrid and attacked my senses. He shoved himself inside me over and over and over until finally along with his sweat his seed was shot across my belly. I let him.
Boy number two turned me over. Said he didn’t want to look and see the fear in my eyes. There was none. He shoved inside me and spread his seed across my buttocks. They got up and dressed the two boys. They left me weeping, naked, on the cold concrete floor of the black alley with the broken pipes, the garbage and the rats. I didn’t bother getting dressed. I didn’t bother screaming. I didn’t call for help.
The man that came to save me, I didn’t know his name. He clothed me and took me to the hospital with the bright lights and that stinging smell. He held my hand as I spoke with the detective. He offered to drive me home. I didn’t know his name. Once home he helped me into bed. He sat with me while I slept. When I woke, he made me coffee and some scrambled eggs. I didn’t know his name.
Weeks went by and this became routine. I hadn’t said a word since he took me to the precinct the day after my attack to identify boy number one and boy number two. So I told him…
I deserve this. I know I do. For years I’ve been silent about the things I’ve seen. I’ve seen old men murdered, children kidnapped, women raped. I’ve done nothing to get in the way. I have been silent my whole life.
He looked at me. He shed a tear.
My dear young girl. No one, no matter what they have done, deserves what was done to you. You are strong to have lived through it. You are beautiful despite it. God never throws obstacles in our way that we cannot overcome. Yes, you were blind. Yes you were hurt. But now I think you will be silent no more.
I smiled, for the first time I could ever remember doing so I smiled. I felt peace. Thanks to this wonderful stranger.
And I still didn’t know his name.