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On Middle River Bridge
Considering Tactical Proficiency and Delayed Anxiety: 11:18 P.M., Monday, 9/25/17

Two days after this incident, on Wednesday night at 12:15, a normal crossing of two people on Middle River Bridge, occurred.

I was heading east, he was heading west.

Which one of us would walk on the curb and risk traffic and which one of us would walk next to the railing and risk getting pinned?

If one of us is an aggressive crook, the other one has the choice of either of these two evils or of a third, direct confrontation, walking down the middle—asking for trouble.

The young black fellow on the other side of the bridge was eating his French fries and wanted no trouble with the old cracker and took the curb side and walked on by, both of us courteously avoiding proximity.

This is where we are in Baltimore and Baltimore County. So many of us decent, working guys have been threatened and attacked by thugs that we do not want to threaten other guys of our ilk, and also don’t trust other men enough to get close, so we error on the side of courteous distance.

In this way, we avoid high anxiety and also help each other pick out aggressors when they do come on the scene.

On Monday Night

I had already had my knee collapse under me running for the bus back in the city. It’s an old injury to the large tendon that passes on the outside of my left knee, from being hit with the two-handed swing of an axe handle by a larger man in 2002.

I was edgy.

My best friend, recently busted by Federal cops, is thinking of taking the same risks again that got him in their custody in the first place. His reasoning is simple. He has been barred from working in his trade due to his conviction and is now stuck with minimum wage jobs. I had been on the phone with him for hours talking him out of it and extracting a promise to get into another trade…

Also, I made a woman cry earlier that day, which always leaves me angry at myself.

A family member is in great difficulty and my publisher is going out of business—all these calls and my creeping decrepitude had been weighing on my mind, preventing sleep, so I headed into work an hour early.

Additionally, a pig in a black BPD cruiser followed me from my house to the bus stop.

Was he a reader?

If that’s the case, Officer Literate, you spooked me good—and fuck you!

Despite this, I was calm, but with an edge. I was a little on the aggressive side when I began walking out to Middle River after offloading from the bus. I did not hobble or stroll, but marched.

My eyes are wearing out and the glasses are 7 years old, cloudy and bent, so I’m not sure how many people, what race, or what sex are approaching, in ragged single-file, from the other side of the bridge.

To the right is the spiked railing over the murky black water.

To the left speeds the drunken effluvia of the Essex bar scene, headed home in sedans and pickup trucks.

There is a tall heavyweight in the lead, so, in case this is a group of thugs, I opted for the curb side and kept coming.

As I take the curb side I get a better view:

In the lead is the 6 foot 5 inch heavyweight,

Second is a six foot middleweight.

Third is a lightweight, slightly under six feet.

Fourth is a muscular welterweight, my size.

My hickory T-cane is riding cross-piece forward in my left hand.

My three-inch lock-blade is under my sleeveless shirt hem. I do not access it, but decide on using cane and then checking hand, if there is trouble.

I look down to make sure my footing is good ahead, no cans, smeared rats, etc., just inside the curb were I am walking and when I look up they have spread out to bag me.

The muscular welterweight is in the rear, having stepped out onto the curb.

The middleweight is walking shoulder to shoulder with the heavyweight who is bearing down on me.

The lightweight is gathering something in his hands and peeking over the middleweight’s shoulder at me.

I decide to thrust the crosspiece up under the heavyweight’s chin to lift it and then jab him in the throat with my right fist.

I have never imagined this, have never practiced it, have never made it part of my scenario building, my combat visualizations. It is as if another person has stepped inside of me and said, “Do this and it will work.”

As a coach, I would have advised a handful of other moves.

As a fighter, I have envisioned doing many other things in this situation—never this.

But, I have learned, that when I inexplicably get calmer, even more relaxed and I feel a sleepy yearning to strike from a coiled state-of-mind, that my instinctive self has taken over. This is how I feel right before a stick-fight, knife-fight or boxing match. If I try to second guess my second self, I am done for.

I do what the dark half tells me, wiring the strike by looking only at his chest and targeting his throat and chin for an upstroke—and then, two steps away, the big Adam’s apple bobs in its unsure place and the heavyweight panics, shoving in front of the middleweight to avoid clashing with me as we pass.

With the two big, front line men still moving past, I glare at the lightweight, still fumbling with his five-inch tactical folder and snarl in the face of the welterweight as he steps back with a weak pivot, flexes his arms, clenches his fists manically and glares hate at me over a forward jutting jaw—an invitation to stay and draw them all down on me.

Stopping, this one fails the final gut check and does not step to me as I pass, stands there, turning his back on his less aggressive friends and looks at me as I pass and he mumbles something.

I Look down at my heel and can see his Nike-clad feet resuming movement as I cross Hawthorn Road.

After I cross the street I look over my shoulder and see them shuffling along in an argumentative huddle, like Fat Albert and the Gang without Fat Albert, my vision unable to make out any details other than that they still moved away but that some heads were turning and hands waving toward each other.

I looked ahead, arrogantly, I thought and marched on down the walk like I owned it—only something inside of me seemed to come loose and I got the shakes. This happened, this delayed anxiety attack, after those three thugs in the Buick began piling out on me this time last year and the driver called them off after I cleared my blade for action.

I was jittery all night long and did not calm down until Black Rob asked me to walk with him to the bus stop at 4:30 A.M. for mutual protection.

Friday, 12:27 P.M.

I was out-of-sorts for the next two days, until today, standing before the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse on Saint Paul Street, when a pretty Salvadoran lady [a fellow juror named Salmone, married to a redneck truck driver] looked up into my eyes, clasped her bible between her hands and asked me to “come to God,” to “let Jesus in.”

I soaked it up, told her I was an unrepentant heathen, glared at the skulking Negro who was approaching her for a handout until he slunk away around the corner, then smiled back down on her. She spoke to me about her second year in theology school and I told her that I coached some Christian men in Pennsylvania.

She then said, “He is talking through me to you. When someone else speaks to you like this, remember that it is God acting through us, that he has not forgotten you.”

I winked at her and said, as I began to turn, “Then tell him to send one like you that’s not married—then maybe he’ll get me.”

She smiled brightly as I walked away, anxiety gone, back to prowling around like I belong in this godforsaken place.

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