I Got Jumped In Brooklyn On Halloween Night
On the sidewalks within our minds, there’s dead bodies everywhere.
Moving to New York is exciting on paper. But when you get there, you quickly realize that New York doesn’t give a shit about your plans. There’s enough douchebags in New York of all flavors and persuasions already. It doesn’t need one more.
So the city conspires to make it as difficult for newcomers as possible. It’s a natural system that preserves the quintessential edge of the city. Weak-minded pilgrims scurry home at the first sign of trouble. And those that survive start their new lives with battle scars.
One of the biggest initial hurdles is an apartment. Myself and my girlfriend, K, responded to a bunch of ads on Craigslist and didn’t get a single response. Our backs were against the wall because a) we were a couple, and most share-houses don’t want to deal with couples, and b) we were living off our savings, and therefore had a limited budget for rent.
We finally got lucky and a guy called David wrote us back. He had a room available at his house in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
The closest subway stop was Nostrand Av. We walked out of the station up onto Fulton St and I was taken aback. Since arriving in New York, we’d been staying at a pricey Airbnb in Greenpoint, a safe little hipster enclave. But Bed-Stuy felt like the real New York. At least 90% of the people on the street were black, and there was nothing fancy or quaint for tourists to admire, just a whole bunch of working class people going about their business.
David was a strange little man. Hispanic, gay, late thirties or early forties. He told us that he “worked in fashion”, but we later found out that he was a retail assistant at Macy’s.
His place was a beautiful old brownstone, just a five minute walk from the subway. The spare bedroom was gigantic and the rent was tolerable. We signed up on the spot.
Thus began the biggest limbo period of my life. We were in the country on 3 month tourist visas, and the plan was to use the time to explore the city and apply for jobs. We already had Canada sorted as a back-up plan, so if New York jobs never eventuated, we would just catch the train over the border and try again in Toronto.
But it was difficult to find the right balance. When we stayed home to do job stuff, it felt like such a waste of time. Likewise when we hit the tourist trail, it was frustrating because we weren’t really on vacation, and couldn’t properly let loose.
On the 31st of October, 2011 we spent the day wandering around lower Manhattan, exploring Wall St and surrounding areas on foot. We caught the subway back to Brooklyn and made it to Bed-Stuy at around 5pm. The streets were teaming with excited young trick-or-treaters and their frazzled chaperones. On the walk back to the house, I noticed an increased police presence — cops were stationed on nearly every single corner.
There was an Aussie expat meet-up happening that night in the city. So we took a couple hours to shower and eat a light dinner at the house.
It was dark by the time we stepped out the door, it must’ve been just after 7. I looked down the block and noticed a boisterous group of 20 black teenagers walking on the sidewalk towards us.
They were all in their mid-teens, probably between 14 and 16, and there was an even split of guys and girls. Some wore Odd Future style face masks. I felt vulnerable, but suppressed the fear within me. They were just kids, I told myself.
A few jeered and hissed as we walked past them. I clenched my teeth, forced a smiled and looked straight ahead.
Just when I thought we were in the clear, I felt something hit my upper back. There was egg splatter on the neck of my coat. I grabbed K’s hand and we started walking faster.
A few seconds later, one of them snuck up behind me, and sucker-punched me in the back of the head. It was a weak punch, and for a minute I thought it was just another egg. It was only when he hit me for a second time that I realized what was going on.
That’s when they mobbed us. All the guys ran towards me, all the girls ran at K, and they overawed us with a flurry of kicks and punches. We were completely surrounded.
Throughout the whole ordeal, I kept a hold of K’s arm. Looking back, I’m not sure if this was a help or a hindrance. The positive was that the mob wasn’t able to separate us. But the downside was that both myself and K only had a single arm each to defend ourselves.
In terms of fight or flight, I didn’t really do either. The whole episode escalated so quickly and I was in complete shock. Paralyzed, all I could do was scream at the top of my lungs for help, and block the barrage of blows with my free arm. All the girls were trying to rip K’s handbag out of her hands, and she was doing a great job batting them away.
The mob pushed us across the road to the other side of the street, and soon we had our backs against a wire fence. I’m not a small guy, and I could have defended myself against 2 or 3 of them. But it was 20 on 2, and it was obvious that they would eventually wear us down. I kept screaming out for help, terrified that one of the kids would tire of our resistance and pull out a weapon.
Finally, a car stopped in the middle of the street.
“Hey!” a middle-aged black lady called out from the car. “Get away from them!”
The jig was up. A few of the guys threw some final haymakers in my direction and then they all split en masse.
“Get in!” the lady said to me and K.
I have no idea how long the ordeal lasted. It felt like forever, at least two minutes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually under 60 seconds.
The lady asked if we wanted to go to the police station. Me and K were completely shaken but agreed that filing a report was probably the right thing to do.
Unsurprisingly, the cops couldn’t do a lot. We’d just been unlucky — wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing had been stolen, and apart from a ton of bruises and some light concussions, we weren’t injured. An officer took pity on us and dropped us off at the subway station.
I was a ghost of myself for weeks after that fateful night. Me and K vowed to one another that we wouldn’t tell anyone about the incident, as friends and family would just worry unnecessarily about our situation. A toxic ball of shame, fear, embarrassment and uncertainty lived within my gut.
But, even though the urge to give up and go home was strong, we survived. Myself and K ending up living in New York for six action-packed years.
Today, Bed-Stuy has become a safe hipster enclave in its own right. And whenever I visit, I’m reminded about what happened all those years ago on Halloween night.
I picture the old version of myself, dead on the sidewalk.
The scary thing is that I don’t really remember who that guy was. Maybe the experience made me a better person. Maybe not. All I know is that he’s different from the person who’s writing this down today.