Friday night, lower Manhattan. I’m in from Brooklyn on the F train, stomping up to Ace, a dive bar in the East Village, to meet friends for drinks. Ace is on Fifth between Avenues A and B and I’m crossing Houston, heading north on Avenue A.
I notice a sharp-looking young lady well in front of me. About 5’8″, thin, wearing a striped miniskirt, knee-high socks, and her hair pulled back into two little ponytails on either side of her head. In other words, that schoolgirl look that’s so played and yet so capable of turning me to mush.
Unable to resist stalker urges, I quicken my pace to catch up with her. Just past Houston, and not paying close enough attention to my surroundings, I’m startled by about six young people, running full throttle in the other direction. One of them nearly slams me at full speed, but I sidestep just in time.
I wonder what they’re running from but I don’t really pay them much attention. I notice, though, the woman I’m following is standing there, mouth wide open, watching them tear by. I start walking again and almost catch up to her when she starts moving quickly again up Ave. A.
At the next corner, two men are arguing loudly, very loudly. A small crowd gathers at a distance, I think hoping to see blood splash and spray. One man’s doing most of the screaming. Nothing coherent–just a lot of “Fuck you motherfucker and fuck your motherfucking motherfucker too.” The other man shouts back more of the same. I notice he has a small, yappy dog on a leash, barking at the first man.
Now of course this all makes me curious, but I don’t need to get involved. What I want instead is a bar and a pint glass and my friends around me. So I start to morph into the thousand-yard stare, the one where you’re vigilant of your surroundings but pretending not to be. Don’t make eye contact, especially not with the nutters, and roll on, roll on, roll on, roll on.
Right then, though, I notice what the girl I’ve been following is now doing. She’s approaching the nutters, arms held out in front of her, and she’s trying to step in between them. Just as I’m processing that bit of lunacy, I see the loudest of screamers rear back with his right foot, and plant a firm kick into the torso of the barking dog, who yelps loudly, flies about a foot into the air, and lands again with a whine.
What was chaotic has now become a maelstrom. The second guy is screaming now more loudly than before, the screamer guy who just kicked the dog is about ready to rain blows down on a human, and the girl I’ve stalked is now even more determined to wade into the fray. I hear her say, “Stop it! Stop it now! How can you kick a puppy? Stop it! Don’t do this!” One guy starts shouting at her to fuck off out of their business, but she stays in the thick anyway.
I have no idea what to expect now. The girl is trying to get the guys to back off each other, but she’s the only bystander who’s involved. The dog is whimpering, the guys screaming, and other passersby agape. Convinced that the girl risks a face-pulping of her own, I think about whether I’d be willing to wade in and yank her out if either guy took a swing at her.
The fight moves off down the street, away from me. The girl sort of trails behind, and I figure any Jane who’d follow these idiots doesn’t need me risking my skin for her. I continue up Ave. A toward Ace. A block up, at the next corner, is a Key Foods–a supermarket–and in front I see two guys talking. One of them says, “Yeah, they got her wallet, her keys, her cash, all her credit cards…” He continues talking but my eyes are drawn to a woman behind him, crying and standing alone.
The pack of young nutters tearing down Avenue A near Houston now makes sense to me.
I watch as another woman comes out of the Key Foods and puts an arm around the crying woman and I step aside to make way for the police. I keep going, a little jostled by all this, and a few minutes later arrive at Ace with a story to tell.