First whole Friday off in my new part-time status saw me cycling into town, doubtless smiling beatifically again, locking up my bike in Swanston Street and unexpectedly wandering down memory lane.
Here's one of the unbidden memories.
About fifteen years ago I was assaulted while I was in town. I'd been at my regular Friday writing group at the CAE in Degraves Street. I don't think I can do myself justice by describing what I was wearing that day, but I think I looked good in my 'nineties' over-sized printed shirt tucked into wide long pants, cinched at the waist - hey! I had a waist! - with a wide belt. My straight brown hair was waist length and I was wearing it out. It was probably glossy in the sunlight; attracting attention. I offer this vague description of myself, because when I've second-guessed why this assault occurred, like many victims, I've tried to imagine it was something I did, or how I looked, that prompted it. (I've often thought the perp could have been a former student who finally saw his opportunity.)
A friend and I were having a coffee outside a cafe. There wasn't the parade of cafe tables lining Degraves Street that you see today; just a few tables and chairs outside the cafe that's almost on Flinders Lane. It was a sunny, warm day. I felt relaxed, chatting with my friend. Loved those writing group sessions. It was an ordinary Friday, in the days before I'd returned to full-time teaching. Elbows on the table, holding my cup in both hands, I glanced to my right and noticed a khaki clad skin-head. He was sauntering along the footpath. He wore an open frock coat over a singlet and trousers tucked into boots that laced up to his knees. He looked out of place; menacing. I noticed all this in an instant; registered it; resumed my conversation. Seconds later I fell forward onto the table with the force of impact. It felt like someone carrying a loaded suitcase had turned suddenly and inadvertently slammed the case into the back of my head. Cups rattled in their saucers as I sprawled across the table, momentarily stunned; head aching already from the blow. Next thing, my friend's on her feet. "You bastard!" she shouts in her cultivated Brighton tones. She shouts it again fiercely, waving a fist. I look up to see people gawping at me. I turn my head to the left and see the slowly receding back of this new romantic romper stomper thug. Evidently, he'd punched me at full force with a closed fist as he'd walked behind me.
I was quick on the mobile phone - a brick. Called 000 and a couple of police walked up from Flinders Street, passing by the psycho who'd slugged me as they did so. He hadn't sped up his pace. I wondered how many other women he'd hit from behind as he strolled around the city that day. By the time the police got to me and heard what had happened he'd disappeared.
I'm still wary when I sit down at tables in public places but I'm over the nightmares I experienced for a while. One of the worst things about the experience was the lack of response from the people who witnessed my assault. Suppose it's the bystander effect.