I was mugged for the last time on this date thirty years ago, the first Monday in December ’83. I’ve talked about this before, the experience of being jumped by four teenagers, who in the end, made away with $13 and change, the dumb asses. It was the beginning of a long and emotional month for me, mostly because of how my classmates responded to finding out about it.
From Boy @ The Window:
The first person who came up to me to ask what happened was Craig. He saw me as I was leaving Carapella’s office, on my way to gym. We talked for several minutes about what had happened. He gave me a high-five, which completely surprised me. It was maybe the second or third time in three years that anyone cared to ask me about what was going on with me outside of school.
It wasn’t just Craig. From Phyllis and Wendy to Joe and Danny, they all seemed to care that I was all right. It was the first time in three years that I knew anyone actually cared about me even in the most basic sense. That whole twenty-four-hour period was overwhelming. Fighting off four muggers and chasing them for over a mile, Mom responding by taking me to the police and their tracking down of Corey, to my classmates’ genuine concern left me emotionally exhausted. I spent most of that evening at 616 asleep.
It was the last of four muggings and robberies in four years, at ages nine and twelve, and two at thirteen. People said that Harlem was rough, and from my trips on the Subway through and times in Harlem with Jimme, it was. It didn’t mean that Mount Vernon was soft or a place for only wannabe-thugs. Within a couple of months, Corey and his gang had all gone to juvenile detention for what they had done to me.
It would also be the last straw for me as far as my identifying myself as a Hebrew-Israelite. The fifth and sixth of December had taught me a lot about the human condition. My classmates had shown me their maturity upon learning about my mugging. Mom took more initiative on my behalf in taking me to the police than I’d seen her take in years. The police actually cared about my case and didn’t play around in tracking down my assailants. It took about three weeks, but I tracked Jimme down, and, after collecting some money for the holiday season, gave Maurice his thirteen dollars.
I guess I also learned a small lesson in redemption. The fact that I had even a teaspoonful of support was very different from the way my classmates might’ve treated me if Corey and company had gone after me two years before. I must’ve done something right in middle school and in ninth grade, enough to where I redeemed myself as a decent human being in the eyes of my classmates. Despite this, I didn’t trust it, not completely. I realized that things would get back to normal in a week or two, and I’d go back to my loner role. And while I was happy that Mom came to my aid, I knew that this was a rare event. Expecting Mom to be there to support me was really too much to ask.
Emotionally, it was as if someone had uncorked a bottle half-filled with warm champagne. I had gotten used to my role as nerdy loner at school and blank, unemotional eldest child in resistance to my idiot stepfather’s abuse at home. My classmates’ positive expressions toward me caused a psychological systems error, one that meant I could no longer avoid a simple truth. That it had been more than two and a half years since the last time I’d felt any connections to any person in my life. I had no friends, no family with which I shared an emotional or psychological bond. I hadn’t had a hug in at least two years. At least, until the day after my mugging.
After years of being weird and odd, of being made fun of (luckily Facebook, Twitter and cyber-bullying didn’t exist in ’83) and beaten up (with the constant threat of abuse to boot), and our plunge into welfare poverty, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make it to be fourteen, much less become a full-grown adult. I was approaching a crossroads, where my previously bottled-up emotions of the period between April ’81 and the mugging were coming directly into contact with my emotionless persona. It was an explosive mix, leaving me to question my very need to exist at all.