On Friday I was on the train heading home, after a long day at school and an even longer day at work. There was only one stop between work and home, which I was grateful for as I was worn out from the day. A few seconds after I got on, at the centre of the last car, I noticed some movement in the back, somewhat obstructed by the advertising panels. I noticed other eyes watching the same movement. It took a minute to make out what was happening, but it appeared a young female and male were fighting. From my view, it appeared more so to be the girl hitting the guy while he hunched over to avoid her strikes without hitting her back. It was obvious that they knew each other and that she was very upset but I could not tell why. As soon as I had put together what was happening, he walked away to a different part of the train (to diffuse the situation, I assume). He walked past me and I saw that he had blood running down his face from a split lip and a profusely bleeding nose dripping onto his off white baggy t-shirt.
Soon after he walked past me, she followed. I had hoped that by walking away the situation was over but this girl was intent on continuing. I looked around the train, searching in vain for someone to rise up and do something. I had no qualms being that person but wondered why no one else had done so yet. Obviously this had been happening for some time, enough time for some of the blood to dry and stain his clothing. There were at least 15 people on this one car. Young, strong, able bodied people, men and women who commanded the same respect I could command and yet they sat in their seats and looked on.
Seeing that no one else was ready to intervene, I walked through the train car with intention. I’m aware that my stature can be intimidating, but let me explain that I am by no means physically strong. I am more a wall then a force. But both these people were smaller then me and I hoped that if my actions got me in trouble, perhaps someone would help. As I walked towards them, their fighting got worse and they were close to falling on a passenger sitting nearby. They didn’t even notice me approach.
I put my arm between the two, balancing the guy before he fell. I said, “You need to both calm down and get onto opposite sides of this train.” He listened immediately and I was surprised as he walked to the other end of the car. Rebelliously she replied, “Why!?” and I said firmly, though calmly and quietly, “Because you are not the only ones on this train, because there are other people here you are at risk of harming too.” Her body language told me she wanted to be a force to reckon with as I held my arm straight across her path, blocking her access to the other side of the train. She wanted to go with him, towards him. She seemed partly wanting to chase him to hurt him and partly because she didn’t want to be alone as she told him, “Don’t walk away, don’t leave me here.”
She was pacing in the small area I had her partially confined too. She didn’t want to walk away into the opposite end of the train, which was open to her and yet she never tried to push past me nor even touch me.
I took a moment to look around and meet with the eyes of the passengers that were watching. They were sitting, staring but not reacting.
I think she wanted to scare me into moving without having to physically move me, as I was half a foot taller then her and definitely heavier. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Maybe I should hit you, huh? You want that?” Her chest puffed out and she stepped towards me. I wasn’t scared of being hit. I looked at her and replied, “Go ahead and hit me all you want. Hit me first. That’s called assault.” Her eyes averted then locked again with mine as she said, “Assault, huh?!” in an indignant tone while stepping even closer to me. I took two steps forward, so that there were only inches between and replied, “Yeah, assault and I will charge you if you even try it.”
I kept my position, as she stepped back and forth, giving up on the idea of moving past me or through me. It had only been a couple minutes when the guy came back. He quietly touched me on my arm and said that he would talk to her now. I kept my arm up momentarily and asked him to ensure he kept it calm and quiet.
I let my arm down and stepped to the side. My stop was coming up and I wanted to go home even more so then I had before. Though, there was a part of me that wondered if I should stay on till they got off or until I knew someone else could intervene. They talked, she was crying now and not making a lot of sense. But they weren’t being violent and that’s all I really cared about. The situation had left my adrenaline pumping a bit which made my legs feel weak and my hands shake. I was glad that I could keep my posture confident looking and my voice firm during the situation but was now feeling the after effects of it and tried to hide it as best as possible as people were still looking at me while I waiting by the door for the train to pull up to my stop.
As I exited the train, I contemplated walking towards the front of the train where the driver was and alerting him of the situation but I knew by the time I made it half way down the platform the train would be leaving. I wondered if they would remain calm, if anybody called the police or security. I wondered if someone would fill my spot as I walked down the stairs towards home.
On the walk, I called Dave and told him the situation. I would be home in 10 minutes and be able to tell him then but I wanted to talk to someone about it immediately. I felt a rush of emotions, not aimed at the couple but aimed at everyone else.
Why had no one stepped in before? Why did they stay seated? Why, when I had interposed myself, had no one joined me?
I felt resentment for being the one to do something, not for actually doing it but because no one else had. How long would have things progressed? Do people have to have life threatening wounds before we interject ourselves to save them or are we too afraid to step out of our boundaries and into someone else’s, even when the situation calls for it?
Perhaps I was making a bigger deal out of it then it had to be and as I walked on the LRT path a peace officer’s vehicle sped past me along side the tracks. I assumed someone must’ve called security or the police and they were on their way there. I hoped that nothing serious had happened since I got off the train and was glad someone called for help.
Even then, I was still left questioning. I felt strength and resolve in what I did but I felt disappointed in other’s lack of action. And it didn’t just relay to this situation. I wanted to know why we stand by always.
What is it that makes some stand up and react, while everyone else looks in the other direction? Why do we hope that someone else will intervene when it’s obvious that no one will?
I have faith in people’s abilities and their random acts of kindness. I know there are moments when courage is tested and it succeeds. When a cry for help is heard and answered. When we interject ourselves in a situation that is wholly unrelated to our life but decide that it needs to end. My only wish is to see it more often and to be proud of a stranger’s decision to react and that I may stand by them when they do so and they with me.