This is a tricky post to write. One evening this week, I was walking home from work through the middle of London towards the tube. The pavement was wide but crowded enough that a man, coming towards me, and myself knocked shoulders. Not brushed, but not so hard it stopped either of us in our tracks. I was tired and, slightly irritated, looked behind me to see him turn to look at me. Then he turned back, walking quickly up to me and grabbed me around the throat.
Holding me this way, he pushed me into the wall of the building we were next to and deliberately hit my head against the stone.
My initial thought was that he was going to strangle me; then that he was going to hit my head more than once. He walked away swearing and accusing me of having walked into him – I forget his exact words. I slumped, more out of shock and surprise than pain, and a crowd gathered at a distance around me. One man talked to me, checked my head for blood (I was fortunately uninjured, but for a tender spot on my head, because the skull is thick where my head hit the wall), and comforted me. When I stood up a woman offered me water from a bottle she had.
I thanked them all for their kindness and said I just wanted to get home. I hailed a cab, and made the various phone calls I needed to.
He has left no visible injury on me and the kindness of the people in the street far overcame the cruelty of his act. My concern informing the police (who have been very efficient and helpful, treating the matter as assault and taking it very seriously) was that he could do it to another person and hit the wrong part of their head of face and, at worst, kill.
The man was smartly, casually dressed. Nothing about him hinted at the violence that came out of him.
I went to work the next day as I felt physically well and I knew that if I stayed at home I could have spent the day brooding and making myself scared of leaving the house. It has affected me, of course, but in a way which I did not expect. One man did something incredibly nasty to me, but about 15 people took care of me. I know if I had witnessed it, I would have been feeling guilty that I did nothing to prevent the man, but I am glad no one tackled him. His actions were frighteningly irrational and as he was obviously seeing red, he could have done real harm. ~What happened has made me more aware of the needs of others. Those people who stopped and helped were so kind to me, and in turn they have made me sensitive to people around me who need help, even if that means just a smile or a few words.
The kindness of strangers is more powerful than those strangers know.