The One Real Moment

I got mugged last night.

It had been three months since I’d started working the late-night shifts at a supermarket. The pay was shitty and the hours long, but at least I was never alone in my apartment. But it also meant I could never complete my assignments on time.

It rained most nights, but I never got caught up because of it. You see, I’d work till closing time and by then the rains would have subsided. It was then that I would walk back home. Every single part of the city was quiet by then. Occasionally I could hear a faraway patrol car, its sirens wailing, but nothing could break the city’s deep slumber.

Once I reached home, I would quickly microwave a bowl of instant noodles. This I downed with Royal Emblem. It was shitty whisky, but it was cheap. I lived paycheck to paycheck, so a nice bottle of whisky was out of the picture. Also, I was developing a drinking habit and getting accustomed to the good stuff would leave me broke. Once this was done, it was pretty easy to fall asleep. I’d be tired enough to sleep right as my head hit the pillow. But some nights were different. Some nights, the tidal wave of repressed memories would flow in and sleep would simply be a vestigial concept in my mind. Then, it was back to the daily grind.

This was my cycle. Every single day. Rinse, dry, repeat.

I’d just crossed the intersection at 45th and Mayde, when it started to drizzle. Fuck! I was about six blocks from my apartment. I had bags in both hands, which meant I couldn’t make a run for it. It looked like I had to brave the downpour and get home. The rain was never the problem, it was the cold wind blowing about that cut deep into your skin like so many little razors. In only a couple of minutes, the drizzle had grown stronger and I was still nowhere close to getting home.

That was when it happened. The mugging. An arm wrapped around my neck like a snake. Hard knuckles dug into me, right below the ribs. It knocked the wind out of me.

When the world resumed its pace in the mornings, I’d be busy catching up with it. Given how tired I was every day, I always woke up late, trying my best not to trip and fall as I got ready for college. After a 30 minute commute that felt like an eternity, I would reach my college, always a hair’s width away from being late. Hour after hour, lecturers would pour in and impart knowledge unto us or pound it into us, while I tried my best to keep my mind focused. This was it, every single day. The entirety of my life amounted to nothing more than being in class for eight hours a day, slaving around the supermarket and having a late dinner before bed.

Before I could get the air back in, a strong leg struck my calf sideways. I felt the sidewalk kiss my face and pleasure was not what I felt. A knee burst into my back and I was cemented between the wet concrete sidewalk and the burly knee. I had just managed to turn my neck and peek a glance at my assailant when a blow landed square on my face.

The weekends for most people is merely a means of escape from the mundane routines of everyday life. For me, the weekends were nearly indistinguishable from the weekdays. I’d be off working double shifts for the extra cash, or I’d sit alone in my room, crying myself to sleep over how I had fucked my life up, or both. Weekends came and went in waves and every one of them seemed to slip away faster than ever before. Maybe I had finally settled into a rut, or maybe this was how life was after the initial high of being alive had worn out?

The pain was now cruising through my face and I couldn’t bear the suspense any longer. I tried to get up, but the weight of my mystery attacker held me pinned to the ground. “Get your wallet out! I don’t need no trouble man, give me your fucking wallet,” he demanded. I tried to reply, but all I could do was mumble. My breath hung low on the cold, wet concrete sidewalk and I couldn’t help but laugh at how mediocre my end would be.

I was livid. I was angry at myself for having landed in this situation. I was scared. But more than anything, I was joyful. I was enjoying every moment of this. This was the most excitement I had had in three months. I felt truly alive. I wanted him to finish me off then, I did not wish to exist a second longer than I had to. This was it.

He tugged on my shirt and pulled me up to my feet, his powerful arms still locking me in place. “I said give me your wallet, scumbag! I ain’t gonna ask twice,” he bellowed. I fumbled around and managed to get my wallet out. I threw it in the air and took my chance to run.

That’s when my face hit the ground again.

I wasn’t the type of person to go out and have ‘fun’. This was because I never had any friends to begin with. I guess I’m the kind of person people are repulsed by. The only friend I had was my bottle of Royal Emblem. I’ve known it for quite a long time and it’s always hanging around by my house. It is reliable — guaranteed to knock me out every single time. And it’s always there for me when I need it. Humans aren’t reliable, so I don’t have any “human friends”.

I tripped on my bag and fell with a thud that reverberated across every bone in my being. He caught up to me and pulled me up by the collar. Another punch to my face and stomach sent me reeling backwards. A direct kick to my shin, then a punch that impacted my chin. I felt hot blood trickle down my neck as it mixed with the cold drops of the midnight rain.

I was already on the ground, getting punched left and right on my temple and forehead. They teach you a lot of things in self-defense classes, but what they don’t teach you is how to recollect all the things you learnt. So maybe it was out of pure instinct that I held up my hands in front of my face. But that didn’t stop him dishing out blow after blow.

It was quite some time later that the barrage of kicks and punches slowed down. I stood there like the hapless victim I was. The rush of adrenaline replaced terror with a rush of euphoria. This was good. This was my ticket out of my miserable routine of an existence.

On the nights that I had trouble sleeping, I’d greet the rising sun with bags under my eyes. I would watch the city slowly crawl back out of its sleep and be abuzz with activity.

I watched the night fade away as I lay there on the sidewalk in the pouring rain. The cold wind blew and I was acquainted with all the bruises on my body. It would be daybreak in a couple of hours and the first signs of life in the city would appear. Soon after daybreak, I got up and made my way home. Sure, I had no self-respect but even I didn’t want the early-bird breakfast crowd to see me. I took a quick shower and watched the blood swirl with the water and flow down the drain.

Almost every single day, my showers were a rushed affair. Trying to make it to classes on time left no time for introspection during showers. Today, I took my sweet time rinsing off the remains of the previous night. The hot water hurt as much as it soothed the sore muscles on my body.

I spent the rest of the day wrapped up in bed, trying to make sense of what had happened. I was mugged and I lost my money. I was attacked and I lost my dignity. But in that loss, I discovered something truly unique.

I stepped out of my apartment that night and made my way across the busy street intersections. I even crossed 45th and Mayde; my bags and the items within were still lying on the sidewalk, silent witnesses to the brutality that had ensued only a few hours prior. But that wasn’t my destination.

I got into a bar and sat up on the high stool. “What’ll it be?” demanded the bartender. “The most expensive whiskey you’ve got, straight up.” A moment later, I added, “Actually, I’ll have two of those.”

I don’t know if it is the rush from what happened, or the influx of alcohol, but last night, I discovered something truly unique. I discovered the one real moment when I was alive.

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