Penny, Ainsley's mom, flew us home, spent the night, and now has to jump a flight back to Portland this afternoon.
Ainsley is at work and I walk Penny to Penn Station, navigating a route through tourists while carrying her two bags. We stop and grab a few 'I love NY' T-shirts at a classic hole-in-the-wall shop and continue West on 34th st.
We get her ticket, watch the monitor, patiently waiting to see which track her train is leaving from.
All is well, she makes her train and finds a comfortable seat next to the window. We hug and part ways.
I sprint up the broken escalator toward the street noise above and charge, head down, along 33rd towards my cozy apartment and book waiting for me on our sturdy black couch.
I have 6 avenues to walk so I pull out my phone and give my folks a ring. My mom answers and we chat about my flight, our new puppy, what Ainsley's up to, how nice it was to all be together...
Out of nowhere, I feel what I swear is someone's shin violently colliding with my stomach. This has to be a joke, a dream, anything other than reality. As I unbend my hunched body, I look up and see a disheveled man, likely 25, in my face - vexed eyes penetrating my own. Time slows and my mind desperately searches through all possible reasons why my adrenaline is engaged and the wind is knocked out of me.
"You F***ing spit on me! Get the F*** outta here!" he stammers, among other things, as fellow pedestrians begin to gawk.
Mind you, I am still talking with my sweet mother about the wonderful Christmas we just shared.
"Are you serious?! Did you really just kick me? Who does that?" I question.
The man comes closer and I instinctively hang up the phone, put it in my pocket and anticipate having to fight for the first time since Jr High.
Two things I know for certain:
1) I did spit on ground.
2) It was nowhere near another human being.
His rage continues to build and the only provocation I can fathom must be coming from my unrelenting stare. The gaze comes more from a place of utter dismay than of maliciousness. Apparently this guy is interpreting it as the latter. He gets louder, uses more expletives, and a confused crowd begins to encroach. The group makes me feel safe. I'm in mid-town and 3 in the afternoon for crying out loud! This is too weird to be happening.
A smile creeps onto my face, likely emitting a message of mockery. I am not intending to make matters worse, I simply cannot understand why someone would kick a total stranger. Is he serious? my mind repeats.
I try to inform the delusional man that yes, I did spit, but it was not intended for anyone's shoe or to act as some sort of sign of aggression.
In retrospect, I probably should have laughed it off and walked away but really?? Come on! -A Chuck Norris roundhouse karate kick to my gut? Really?
The stare down continues. The crowd grows. He uses a few choice fingers to communicate what his mouth has already been doing for 2 minutes now. He turns and walks away.
...."oh. my mom!" I think and quickly redial.
She was scared to death by what she overheard on her end of the line:
"Are you serious?! Did you really just kick me?"
I relay details of the encounter as she finally allows herself to breath and even laugh, knowing now that I am safe.
- Only in New York -