A kid got beat up on the muni today. Right there in front of me. Or, more accurately, behind me. What's actually more upsetting than this random act of violence is the hard and fast discovery that I am the kind of person who would try to sit there and ignore some kid getting his ass kicked. The rest of the bus hopped to, once the perpetrators got off, yelling for the bus driver to stop, describing the assailants, the direction they took off in, and grabbing napkins for the poor kid's bloody nose.
Me? I sat there, afraid to even look in the direction of the fleeing bullies. Somewhere along the line (read: in Cleveland) I learned that violence can always, and often does, escalate. I'm actually not all that afraid of getting hit with another person's fist (though I probably should be). What I'm actually afraid of is that I will intervene, or even make eye contact, and the kid will bring out a gun. It's the kind of thing that was likely to happen in Cleveland. Or at least, felt likely to happen once it happened that one time.
So my default settings are a) Be Afraid and b) violence will escalate. And it's pretty damn exhausting.
I go through phases of being less afraid. I remember walking the mile or so to Amelia's apartment off Dupont Circle that one summer in DC and feeling enough like a grubby student that I figured I was an unappealing target in a land full of suits. During the '04 election I sucked it up and knocked on doors in some fairly intimidating housing projects. But at the moment I'm at a peak of fear. I'm hoping it's just a fun artifact of general stress and upheaval (as lovely as this whole process has been, it is still stress and upheaval) and sleep deprivation and not my actual feelings toward my new city. Because I have to get over this shit and find my city legs. Agoraphobia runs in my family enough as it is, I don't need to feed that particular fire.