My sister, her flatmate Lisa and I bore witness to a disturbing altercation last night. A man – drunk - and a woman - not drunk, dressed stunningly, were alone in the darkness.
He was ranting. She was saying “get in the car.”
“F*ing c*, f*ing c*”
She shrieked. There was the sound of smashed glass. When he came into view again he was swinging himself around lamp-posts. He heaved a picnic table up above his head and dropped it on the pavement.
“Stop!” she shrieked.
“GRRRR.” he returned.
“He’s like a gorilla,” my sister said. “I think he’s all talk, though.”
“Look at what you’re doing. Look at what you’re doing to ----“ the woman appeared to be showing him a picture on her mobile phone.
“F*** off!” he said and began walking away, the woman followed him, all the time talking on the phone.
“Leave me alone! Get off that f***ing phone. I don’t want to hurt anybody. You think I wouldn’t!” he said.
“You’re already hurting people,” she said.
“Hurting people… F***.”
“Yes, you’re hurting yourself,”
“I’m hurting myself!”
“Why doesn’t she just walk away?” Lisa said.
“I think we might need to call the police again,” my sister said. She’d already phoned them once to deal with what sounded like an assault in her block of flats this week.
He turned on the woman.
“I’m going to f***ing kill you” he said.
“She’s by herself down there,” Lisa said. “We should take a phone with us.”
All three of us grabbed our shoes and I rammed my hat on my head, because a face in shadow feels braver. We ran down the stairs.
The man was walking towards the woman, who just stood staring at him. We were on the other side of the park shouting.
“Mate, if you don’t calm down I’m going to call the police!” Becky said.
“I’ve already called them,” the woman called back, standing before him with astonishing placidity as he swaggered up to her, his hands rising to her throat.
“Leave her alone!” I was on the verge of tears suddenly. They looked around. I put my hand in my pocket, tilted my head on one side and stuck out my chin.
He backed away from her then and carried on ranting.
“Come on, Alex. She’s already called the police,” my sister said. We retreated to watch from the window of her flat. Part of me was itching to go outside and stand next to the woman – but they could both see us watching from the window at least.
“Why doesn’t she walk away?” Lisa murmured again.
The police arrived and began talking to him. “Nice to see you again.”
The man was suddenly humble in his explanations.
“I went off my rocker, that’s what happened. I’m very sorry.”
“Yes I understand everybody needs to blow off steam once in a while. Is there anything in particular that has happened recently that has made you feel this way?”
The woman walked away with the other policeman. They continued their murmured conversation.
“What I’m concerned about, sir, is there may be some underlying issues, here…”
“And that’s why you shouldn’t drink Stella,” Lisa sighed.
“Look at us. Defenders of the neighbourhood.” Becky said. “Can everybody just CALM DOWN, please.”
I find it odd that we three girls were ready to run outside and speak out for the sake of a woman alone in the dark, but other passers by just looked at the ground, hurried the hell on their way.
Your own safety first, right? I know that’s sensible – little good comes of detachment though.