Learning a Lesson

Two men argued on a crowded eastbound train from New York City. They pointed and shouted at each other during the evening rush hour. They cursed and threatened each other. One of the two men spoke with so much anger that strings of spit flew from his mouth. The other man was equally as angry, but he screamed less spit.
The argument erupted very quickly in the cramped isle, which was overcrowded with standing passengers who were commuting home after another long day at work.
The seats on the railroad  were all taken and the overhead compartments above the seating were lined with bags, briefcases, coats all bundled up with sleeves hanging down above the heads of seated people, and department store shopping bags, which lay on its side with clothes and other merchandise sticking out from the brown or white paper bags.
The flooring was wet from the boots and shoes of those who walked the snow-covered streets of Manhattan. The train was delayed and the mood was intense. Everyone on board wanted to be home—everyone wanted the courtesy of personal space or quiet, but there was no space for anyone and the train was not quiet.
No one wanted to listen to the loud cell phone conversations of somebody else, or be seated next to someone with loud music leaking from headphones and interrupting a much wanted silence.

It was unclear to most why two well-dressed men began to argue. Like a fire, the verbal assault began with a spark of rage. It flamed quickly and ended nearly as fast. It was extinguished, and the ending to this argument was profoundly brought to a halt with one final question.
With spit flying from one man to another, a third and outside party, tired, and much larger than the other two men decided to speak out. He spoke in a voice that was strong enough to drowned the insults from the other two men.
“Is either of you gonna to do anything about it?”

The two men, both of medium build and equal size, neither of them truly threatening, and both of them quickly aware they would be easily beaten, turned to the large man with scowls on their face.
They were prepared to argue back until they understood that both were mismatched. The third passenger was not well dressed like they were. His hands were rough—like that of a man who used them to earn a living. He too was cluttered in the train and standing  near the space by the doorways; however, when his voice rang out to stop the commotion, those who stood around him curled away and ran for cover.

The third man was much larger than the average. He stood somewhat calmly in his oversized, outdoorsman coat with a camouflaged “Union pride!” shirt beneath it. His jeans were dirty and his boots were obviously used. His head was shaved, and his blonde goatee was sharp and crisp. He stood without showing much emotion,  but yet, he appeared somewhat hostile with a threatening gleam in his eye.

Pointing at the two men, the third man and outside party asked, “Are you gonna do something about it? Because if not, then shut up. Now. Both of you!”
The two men looked at him. They both nodded, submitted in a way to acknowledge their wrongs, and then they both sheepishly looked to the floor and refused to look at anyone else.

In this small instant, both men were shown a lesson in violence.

I am a firm believer that many people do not understand what violence is. Most do not understand what it means to pay consequences for their actions.
Many people have never been beaten, or punched in the face because of their actions. Take the two men, for example. They shouted and screamed; they cursed and they threatened—but neither of them threw any punches, and neither of them would have argued if they understood the possibilities of actual violence or pain. The third man and outside party, however, was willing to inflict that pain, which is why the two men  themselves and the ride home was quiet.

A while ago—maybe a year or two—I walked through a stationary store that was close to my home. There were three teenagers in the store. They were loud. They were laughing, and the smallest of the three teenagers was bragging about his first trip down to the police precinct. Neither of the three was very big in size. None of them appeared threatening, and all three of them looked as if they were only mid-way through puberty.

I could hear the boy as he told his story in the last aisle near the Garfield greeting cards. He was bragging about his trip in the police car. The small, bony-looking teenager, with pale, pimpled skinned and black shaggy hair, told his friends how he acted while in custody. He bragged about the fact that his parents came to pick him up.
“My mother was yelling at the cops in the precinct,” said the boy.
He bragged that the police were angry because they could not hold him.
“They kept on telling me, ‘Just wait until next time,” said the teenage boy.

It was clear to me; this boy did not understand what violence is. He did not have a healthy taste of consequence. He laughed—but had he taken the walk down a long corridor and been placed in a cell, had he been placed in a small cage with others, who unlike the teenage boy, had no one to call, nothing to lose, and no one to post bail—his story would be reported much differently.

Aside from the employees, the store was mostly empty. Only a few customers scattered throughout the isles. I listened as the three laughed out loud, but feeling frustrated, I decided to turn down the aisle to introduce myself to the three youngsters. Apparently, one of the three boys was employed at the store. He was tall, gangly, and his steely smile was covered with braces.

When I approached, I fixed my grin to something unemotional and detached.
I asked the boy, “You think that was fun?”
I am not a physical specimen, by any means. I am not intimidating, nor do I appear to look threatening.
At least, I don’t think so.
I am, however, heavily tattooed and I do have a way with words. So to play up my appearance, I moved in nice and close.

The teenage boy was startled when he turned around to find me moving in on him. His eyes traced the tattoos down my arms, shoulders, and the one sticking out from the neck of my white, A-framed tank top. I am not terribly big—but I was bigger than any of the three boys.

I asked the boy again. “Did you think that was fun?”
But he stuttered instead of answered.
“Wait until they keep you,” I explained. “That’s when the real fun begins.”
I said, “Wait until they put you in a cage with a bunch of men who will tear you apart and then fuck you in the ass!”

The teenage boy tried to excuse himself.
He called me, “Sir,” but I decided not to let him speak.
“Don’t fuckin call me, sir!”
“Who the fuck are you talking to?”
“Do you know me?”
“Do you know who I am?”
Each time the boy went to answer, I spoke faster and louder.

The two friends tried to speak up, but I decided to cut them off as well. I decided to frighten them—but the manager of the store asked me to leave before anything else happened.

I left feeling aggravated, but my aggravation had little to do with them. I was angry because I was once no different from any of those three boys.
I thought I was cool once. I thought I was cool until they led me down a long corridor, stood me outside of a dark cage, which smelled from unclean bodies, and then a guard placed me inside.
I thought I was cool until I heard the cell door close behind me.  But more, I always thought I could work my way out of anything—except, the bars on the cell doors cannot be manipulated. The men behind the barred doors could not be manipulated either.
My first time in holding, the next morning was longer than anything. I was picked on and pushed around in the cell beneath the courthouse. I went to sit down on one of the benches—except, someone told me they wanted my seat.
There was nothing I could have done. I was outsized. I was unable to successfully defend myself. I was 17 years-old, scrawny, sick from drugs, and introduced to what violence really is.

I firmly believe many people are unaware of what violence means. I doubt many understand what it means to pay consequences, or what it feels like to dig yourself in so deep that there is no way out. There are no words that can save you from your actions, and all that’s left is the blood and  that come from an all-out beating.
If people were more aware, I believe they would behave differently. The pseudo-tough guy approach would be different or perhaps—humbled . . .

I often tell you that I work as a stationary engineer and provide maintenance in a commercial office building  —

Man on the 17th floor at work likes to yell at people. He runs a successful moving company. He also runs his mouth.
One evening, the man on the 17th floor decided to yell at one of the truckers standing in the public corridor, just outside the freight elevators.
Man on the 17th floor shouted and cursed at the trucker. After several minutes and too many insults, the trucker had enough.  He reached out, gripped the man on the 17th floor by the throat, squeezed tight, and shoved him back against the wall. Since that time, the man on the 17th floor has not yelled at any of the truckers . . .

This was his lesson in violence.

A night cleaner at work decided to hit on a receptionist that worked on the 8th floor. She was open to him. After a few sexual romps in one of the janitor’s closets, the night cleaner decided he was finished. The only problem was the receptionist decided she was pregnant. The night cleaner denied responsibility. He was visited the next day by the girl’s two brothers who spoke mostly in Russian while kicking the night cleaner in the face.

That was his lesson in violence.

I have a scar on the back of my head, which I earned during a fight that could have been easily avoided. I was in a diner near 23rd Street. After a verbal altercation with a group of four men sitting in a booth, I decided to strike first with a weapon.
I slammed a thick wooden pole across the top of someone’s head. The problem had already begun, but the problem became much worse when the man I struck in the head, stood, and lifted from his seat. I had no idea how big this man was until he stood up. He stood and turned to find me, standing with a broken piece of wood in my hands—which just so happened to be the same piece of wood I used to crack the top of his head.

I have no memory of what happened afterwards. I was knocked to the brown tiled floor of the tan-colored diner. I was told there was a pool of blood beneath my head that was more than a foot in any direction. Blood leaked from my nose and my left eye was swollen shut. Fortunately, I was not alone and my friends helped me out.
I would love to tell you what happened, but I can’t.
I can’t tell you because I can’t remember. All I remember was walking into the diner, the argument, and the next thing I knew, it was 5:00 in the morning and I was on a bed in a hospital’s emergency room.

That was my lesson in violence . . .

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