I’ve spent the last four days being miserable. Both physically and mentally–and I’ve had a right to. I couldn’t face the pen, or etch out words on the keyboard–this is equivalent to suicide… On Sunday night (well, very early Monday morning, to be accurate) after a weekend filled with many, many fantastic things, I fell suddenly and without warning into a most horrendous situation. I was lying on the ground being beaten and robbed.
Allow me to rewind a few hours, days and weeks to put things into perspective. Not an hour before, I was immersed in a jubilant crowd of bike polo players–spectators and competitors alike reveling in the glory of the game; the good, bad and foul; imbibing and carousing with gratitude and marvel at a successful weekend of intense battles on the court.
Days before, I had arrived in Chicago by way of ride-share, having spent 13 hours in a car with a man I didn’t know that same morning. The trip was seamless, fun; the long ride went by as naturally as exhaling a single breath.
In addition to the tournament, I came to be reunited with family–polo family; L.A. polo family particularly. In the last year Steve had gone to Chicago with his lovely lady Aimee;
NoLove had migrated to Austin; and I had left L.A. for wherever the wind might blow me.
Not to mention, Joker, one of L.A.’s finest players, would be there to lead his team as far as their collective talents might take them.
And further back in time, you find me: the solitary bike polo gypsy; there today, and here tomorrow, and always turning, turning, turning my wheels towards the rays of sun that beckon. In all of the short span of my passages I have met continually with fortune, luck, generosity and universal acceptance, encouragement and love. This is not an exaggeration.
Fast forward: I am flat on my back, my messenger bag crushed beneath me and flattened into the concrete, with two heavy hands forcing so hard upon my arms and shoulders they seem to reach for the ground itself. Rewind: I am walking down Madison Street, coming upon Damen, slowing to discern whether I am to go left or right at this junction. Coming in my direction, unassuming and at a casual pace: two young women in their 20’s. They ask where I am trying to get to. I give them a set of cross streets and we exchange conversation; they say they can show me to the train if I like. The blue line. The one that runs all night. Fast forward: I am efforting to hold my arms up, above my face, which now aches and burns, while the second of the two women, the smaller of the two women, leans in close and shouts and lunges for another hit. Rewind: The pair and I, a trio of chirping women, make our way towards the train. We make two right turns–this much I can remember. Fast forward: The hideous dragons roar with ugly fire, ordering me to relinquish my PIN number. They have my wallet, removed from my pocket. They work my bag out from under me in between more brutality. I am now alert enough to fend off hits, to think about extending my fist into the face of the one who hovers above me. Did I do it? I don’t remember. I think I might have, but I was locked in fear. I reach out for the strap of my bag as it moves away from my body. I hold on. I am rolling. We are tumbling. I don’t know up from down. I see my camera in the dragon’s hand. They reach into the bag and pull out more. I don’t know what happens next, except that somehow I am running. Running and panting and heaving, with bleary eyes and bare feet. The world blurs into a sea of blue-black-and-yellow fury. It wails and howls–and so do I.
Fast forward: The cops escort me back to Steve’s, I run into the house in hysterics and proceed to rejoin a world of sanity and safety and calm over the next several days, though not without the loss of both priceable and priceless items; and the stinging acquisition of blunt-force head trauma, an inventory of scrapes and bruises, and the lead-weighted sensations of weakness, fear and misery.
Fast forward to today: I’ve made it back to New York, I don’t have any serious damage to my brain or body, and while sleep escapes me, bad dreams haunt the would-be restful moments, and my head continues throb, I have hope for humanity. It’s hard to reconcile being a victim of a violent crime; I want to be grateful for the things that were preserved, but it’s impossible to not be angry, and residually scared, confused and disappointed in both myself and my assailants.
Yet, I cannot be compelled to live in fear. I cannot be deterred from looking for the good in the strangers I pass on the streets. They are only strangers until we meet. Every person holds beauty and magic within their human body. Divinity seeps out from the pores of the masses. I know this much. Danger is not unreal; hostility and violence are no less real. I am not immune, doubtlessly, nor am I naive.
Tonight I made my way into St. Mark’s Book Store and wandered through the aisles, repeatedly, seeking nothing. I simply looked. Finally I was drawn to stop and pick up a book: It was a book on Buddhism, called Comfortable with Uncertainty. I want you now to know I do not claim to be Buddhist (though one day I might) and I did not seek out texts on Buddhism or any spiritual subject. I simply…landed there. And sitting there, I came to learn of Bodhichitta: the awakened heart; the basic goodness of all beings. Tonight I see that I am essentially a Bodhisattva, a warrior against fear and selfishness and greed. I have already embraced an attitude of openness; I accept things as they are; I am able to recognize pain and fear and struggle and let it exist. In doing so I can move out of these emotions.
In doing so, I can grow. I can see that my stubbornness, my inclination to go it alone, and my reluctance to ask for help manifest into pain, injury, distress and disaster. By fearing my own weakness (denial of it) and fearing to show weakness I let myself become vulnerable. Here, now, I can see ways in which I must grow. While the physical damages repair themselves, I am consciously re-forming the ideas I have been fixed within as well, which hold my mind and spirit away from true compassion, happiness and fulfillment.
I am here to live presently, fully, fearlessly. And I am blessed to know it.