When I was in Dublin in 2006, I would say I went on what was a bit of a book shopping binge. You see, a lot of my favourite writers are from Ireland and Scotland, and their books aren’t readily available in Canada, so when I started wandering the streets of Dublin and finding all sorts of amazing books at cute little used bookstores for WAY cheap, I nergasmed. And bought many.
On one particular day, I had just found a very cool first edition of Trainspotting, as well as a copy of an Enda Walsh play I hadn’t read before. I was stoked. So excited. I decided the obvious best thing to do would be start reading Trainspotting immediately. While I was walking back toward my guesthouse.
Now, it was a summer afternoon in Dublin, and I was staying pretty close to O’Connell Street just north of the Liffey (A.K.A. right in the thick of things), so the side street I was walking down was FULL OF PEOPLE. And it was daylight. Sunny. Beautiful. Not the time you’d expect anything weird and/or scary to just happen.
But shit happens when you least expect it, I suppose.
I was weaving my way in and out of people when all of a sudden, I saw a man getting pushed to the ground just across the street from where I was. In fact, being that it was a pedestrian-only street, I think it’s impossible that anyone didn’t see him getting pushed to the ground. But nobody stopped walking.
I froze where I was, trying to figure out what was going on. The man on the ground, whose hands were both bandaged up as if he had been tossed a hot iron as a cruel prank (so let’s called him Bandages), started screaming and holding onto his head, sheltering himself from the man who had pushed him down, who was now kicking the shit out of him with giant combat boots (so let’s call him The Kicker).
“Hey!” I yelled – or “yelled” (because I was terrified).
I had no idea what to do. No one around me seemed to care about what was going on. Tourists took note and sped up their pace, turning a blind eye. I was flabbergasted.
When The Kicker started stomping his boot down on Bandages’ face, I pulled out my cell phone and started trying to figure out if I had to dial a country code in order to dial 999 for the police.
“Arrrgh!” Bandages screamed.
Just as my concern shifted from “this guy’s getting hurt” to “this guy might get his skull smashed open on the pavement,” I heard it.
“Hey! Hey! Hey! Knock if off, you fuck!”
Two young women had inserted themselves smack dab into the middle of the confrontation.
Not only were they young women – maybe 25 or so – but they were each pushing a baby in a pram, and the one doing the yelling – a super cute, tiny blonde – was also holding hands with a tiny (maybe four-year-old) boy.
“Stop it! What’s wrong with you?! Get out of here, you!”
And The Kicker listened! He spat on Bandages and then ran away, quickly disappearing into the crowds of people.
The women let go of their prams and helped Bandages into a sitting position on the curb he had just been getting stomped against.
“You all right? Up you come.”
He looked like he had no idea where he was (and I can’t blame him), but he was still alive and in one piece (an accomplishment, given what I had just seen).
And just as quickly as they had intervened in Bandages potentially being killed in the middle of a beautiful summer afternoon in Dublin, the two women gathered their children and went on with their day. I looked up and down the street for The Kicker, but he was nowhere to be seen, so I decided to move on with my day, too. But not before looking at Bandages one last time to make sure he was awake.
He was wavering a bit, sitting on the curb and adjusting the bandages on his hands, but he was alert. I hoped he was figuring out the next step he had to take to never see The Kicker again. In reality, he was probably trying to process what had just happened, and he probably couldn’t even hear never mind think after all of the impact his skull had just suffered.
After a silent well wish for Bandages, I kept walking.
That was the day I learned that Irish mothers are not to be messed with.
And also that the scariest things in life often happen in the blink of an eye.