I was sitting at work, as I often do, enjoying the persistent tides of vacationing travelers with their myriad queries and odd requests, when through the doors of the hostel came a woman from the street. "I'm not gonna lie, I'm a street kid," she started. "This guy has been harassing me, can you call the cops?" I said yes, I would, and she left. I looked outside to see who it was, and sure enough there was a character lingering about my doorstep. Not tall, thin looking but not exactly sickly, backpacked and bedizened in leather jacket and jeans. Not your typical life-battered crack smoking goblin but still clearly a one under the crooked claw of those gods. I went back to the desk, trying to decide whether or not I was going to bother calling someone. I sat down and the door opened. Someone let out a quick shriek and hurried inside. My co-deskateer and good friend Anthony asked what had happened. The student coming in told us that the man outside had grabbed her ass. Well, that dog won't hunt. I charged back toward the door and told this gentleman to fuck off immediately.
He began to comply, so I went back inside. As soon as the door was closed, he reversed his slow meander away from the building and took up station once again directly outside of the door. Anthony called the number for our security force (known as "The Patrol Specials"), and I went out again to holler at this wayward ghost. This time, he just started to stalk back and forth, but seemed to be making his way onward, so again I went back inside. By this time we had been joined by Em, a lovely poet and writer and one of the few authentically fantastic acquaintances I've made at work. Anyway, this bedraggled wretch paced in front of the hostel's entrance like a brain-sick jaguar in a low-rent zoo, turning to look at me in between hits on his crack pipe. I was standing with Em in front of the desk, just watching this guy. At this point, I had decided that waiting for the specials was going to be more entertaining than chasing him off, so I just smiled back at him and waited. Alas, they didn't arrive before he attempted to make his way inside.
I watched him as he came toward the door, so I started forward immediately. I don't know what this guy had planned, but I didn't intend on letting it get past the threshold. I remember this part very clearly. I contemplated whether or not just punching him in the face without warning would constitute assault. He was, after all, guilty of at least one minor sexual assault, and was now trespassing with the intent to commit mayhem. I decided against it, instead falling back on the ol' hard shove through the door. There exists a technique in martial practice called "Hu Pu" the tiger's back. I didn't use it, despite my planning to. Just as I approached him, the second I was taking in breath to send this bastard flying across the street with my magical forces of kung fu brutality, he blew a stream of acrid smoke directly into my face. I inhaled this deeply, and my preparation was somewhat stuttered. I choked a bit as my hands made contact, shoving him as hard as I was still able out through the doors and onto the sidewalk. I followed outside after him just as the specials pulled up. My throat stung a bit, but aside from the normal induction of adrenaline in my system I wasn't feeling odd yet. I didn't even think about it. The man recovered himself off the sidewalk and immediately started off down the street. I pointed him out to the patrol cop who arrived (he had meandered down the road and was pestering some other innocent pedestrians), and went back inside.
I soon realized I might be missing a show. I went back out, and sure enough, this belligerent man was being stalked by the specials, slowly still but keeping ahead of them, yammering an inane stream of nonsense. Back and forth they went, their saunter occasionally turning to charge as they tried to get ahold of him. He paced again by the hostel, demanding my cigarette as he loped passed. The number of his pursuers had increased, as did his frantic pace, and before I knew it they were all tearing ass across the neighborhood, him shouting continually about the events of the evening and nearly being hit by a car, finally concluding in his being brought down to the asphalt and pummeled an appropriate amount. The cops had arrived, and the throng got brave and the streets got crowded. I went back inside. By this time, I realized the buzzing in my system was not the old familiar adrenaline charge. I was high on crack.
The big cloud he expectorated into my face had indeed mostly wound up in my lungs. The timing couldn't have been better if I was trying to shotgun a hit from me ol' cobber's crack pipe, and that was exactly the result. I couldn't focus, I felt somehow frantic. My hands started shaking, and eventually the rest of my body followed suit. My legs got numb and my thoughts moved like a race car greased with cheetah blood. I called my manager, who told me to go to the hospital. I wasn't about to spend the rest of my evening sitting in an emergency room, so I declined the suggestion, but he told me to at least go home. I wasn't sure. I was outside smoking with Em and Dan and some Germans and it was all something of a blur. After about 15 minutes spent sitting on a couch, trying to get my head in order, I decided to go home early. Which I did. Which is where I'm sitting now. I'm feeling somewhat ill.
There was a short epilogue to the events. Just before my cab arrived (I had missed my last bus home), a reporter came in. Channel 5 microphone in hand, he was asking the night guy at the desk what went on. I approached, telling him that I was witness to the thing (still vibrating slightly, but keeping it together). This man was a picture of slimy journalistic exploitation.
"So you saw it, eh?"" he asked in a sneering, greasy tone.
"Yeah, the whole thing."
"Did you get it on tape, you wanna put it on youtube?" he chuckled. Disgusting.
"No, it wasn't filmed by anyone. The guy was going crazy, he caused trouble, assaulted this girl, and the cops arrested him. Normal stuff."
"We heard about some police brutality..." Ahhh, his angle rears it's ugly head. I didn't want to go on record defending the cops, but I told him that there was no foul play. The guy got everything he deserved. I denied his request for an interview, packed myself into a cab and left. Crazy times, folks.