Dusk had already fallen as I stepped from a bus. I was intent about making a close connection to another bus. Haste, in this case, not making waste.
It was an articulated bus – some refer to them as accordion buses – segmented in the middle with three exit doors. They actually do bend in the middle and hold more passengers. I left the bus by the front door and was walking quickly along its length. I was just passing the middle door when, from the last door, two young men (I don’t think they were teenagers) tumbled and shuffled out of the third door onto the sidewalk. They were a few steps in front of me.
One of them was yelling and shoving and swinging at the other.
“Do you want me?”
“Were you looking at me?”
“What is it with you?”
These were the type of questions from the aggressor. He was dressed decently and had a cap. The other fellow (they looked the same age) had a bag over his shoulder and headphones on his head. He was more decently dressed and wore glasses. I took him as a university student. As could have been the other chap.
It appeared something had happened on the bus, though there certainly had been no altercation there. The aggressor was shoving the other one across the sidewalk to the grass verge. His headphones were knocked off and he had trouble holding to his briefcase. The aggressor seemed to just repeat variants of what he was saying. Angry questions.
I was in a hurry. I also did not want to get in the middle of a fight. The police tell us to steer clear and to contact authorities. City fistfights can quickly turn to weapons. I was aware of all this but … I was thinking, well, if that were an elderly person being hit, or a child, or a female, I would have felt obligated to do something. Intervene verbally, at least. Make some commotion to perhaps diffuse the situation. If it was a person being struck who was beyond self-defence, I would have intervened with the supposition that someone else would come to assist. Such thoughts jumbled through my head.
The fellow with the briefcase was on the grass verge, and down he went. He lost his grip on the briefcase. I don’t know if he was struck with such force to make this happen, or if he slipped on the grass, or if he slipped attempting to get out of the way. The aggressor was standing over him and yelling, but he did not (as they say around here) ‘take his boots to him”. The fellow on the ground said: “Corbin, I don’t want to fight with you.”
All this, of course, took place in less than twenty seconds. I had slowed my stride and I was watching, but I had not stopped. That they knew each other (as they say around here) “changed the water on the beans”. In retrospect, I realise I had noticed an element of ritual”about this event. The aggressor had not gone for a blow to the face, and did not take undue advantage now. However, he was still furious.
“You earned it.” He was sputtering. “You deserve it.”
The fellow on the grass scrambled after his briefcase and his headphones. As he got to his feet the other fellow shoved him again. He skittered, but retained his footing and dashed out into the street. The aggressor started to give pursui, but some traffic slowed him just a bit. The other fellow ran along the sidewalk on the other side, then started to walk more normally. The aggressor did not cross the road.
I did get my bus.
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