Sep. 20th, 2012

tevere: brad looking away towards explosion (brad)
Recently I was sitting in one of the parks in my area, reading, surrounded by the kind of people who frequent parks in well-off inner city suburbs during the middle of a workday in spring: young, nicely-dressed white mothers with expensive prams; a lone dad doing crunches while his toddler played on a mat; a couple of students sleeping entwined on a picnic blanket; two young guys sitting under a tree playing the djembe. At one point I looked up and was suddenly struck by a sense of the extraordinary: how safe everyone was, how free of fear, as babies played in the sandpit and parents chatted and the students slept without bothering to keep half an eye open. How lucky we are, I thought, to never have to worry about violence happening to us. And then I finished my book and went home.

Two days later one of my ex-flatmates was cycling to work not far from that park. A little further ahead he saw a pedestrian walking towards him in the bike lane. Perhaps the footpath is closed for repairs or something. Mildly annoyed, he made to swerve around the pedestrian. As they drew level, the man suddenly raised his arm and, revealing a sharp stick in his hand, drove it directly into my friend's face. The force of the blow broke his nose; the stick penetrated his sinus cavity and lodged there. Thrown to the ground, my friend-- somehow still conscious-- attempted to stagger to his feet and had to be held down by a horrified passer-by ("Dude, there's a tree branch sticking out of your face"). It made the news that evening: Cyclist, 35, in stable condition after surgery. The pedestrian had gone on to brutally assault two more people-- a man standing texting at a bus stop, and a woman walking down the street-- before the police tracked him down.

We saw our ex-flatmate a couple of days after he'd been released from hospital, looking like the loser of a pub brawl with a black eye, split lip, nose splint, and a line of black stitches across his cheek. "Still," he said, musing on it, "something like this is so random that it's kind of like being hit by lightning, isn't it?"

I guess for us, it is.

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