It was a couple of years ago. I was still living back in Mexico at the time, and I was coming back from a maths class early in the night. By that point, people had started milling about in their evening attire; bars had opened and were soon to expect their first round of drunkards. On the other hand, you had people like me, who were calmly walking home, after a hard day’s work.
I walked past the streets with night venues, and soon found myself on my own. Nevertheless, just as I was in my own neighborhood and I turned the street corner to reach the road where my house was, three guys jumped out in front of me. Their attitude immediately made me understand that I was about to be robbed, before they’d even said a word. Well, there was that, and the fact that shortly thereafter the leader of the gang had a gun pointed directly at my chest.
“Give us your stuff” he said in a victorious tone as he trained his sights on me, for what fool would possibly disregard that order? Before I continue with the story though, I must add that if one has never had a similar experience, they’ll be confused as to why I proceeded to do what I did. Adrenaline makes people act somewhat out of character.
Within a few seconds, I proceeded to stare him down, and time seemed to slow down. They outnumbered me three to one, and they were armed. I looked at his gun. Oddly enough, it looked like a museum piece. If it had fired seventy years ago, I’d have been very surprised. Probably less surprised than him though, when I told him to fuck off. Just there, I’d done what I thought at the time to be flawless logic. Yes, they outnumbered me three to one, but I towered over them, and I was better built than them. If it came to a fist fight, I thought I could take them easily.
In the meantime, as I stared the gunman down, one of the three guys peeled from the group and went for my bag, which I was holding by a single shoulder strap. I lunged at him, but even before I’d had time to react, he had started running away to a taxi that was waiting for them, a few hundred meters away. Immediately, the other two followed suit, and I ran after them.
Just in front of the taxi, I managed to grab the person with my bag. The second one was circling around the car, to get into the side seat, as the driver was already in the car, seemingly very nervous. Finally, the last one had managed to get into the backseat, thus I caught my thief just as he was about to get in – leaving the door ajar in the process. Maybe it was the sudden lull in the action, but as I was wrestling the man who’d taken my bag into submission by means of a chokehold, it dawned on me how monumentally stupid I’d been acting up until that point. The gun might very well be real, and I was taking a stupid risk for essentially nothing.
I thus decided, that rather than getting shot, I ought to do my best to make myself a difficult target. I crouched down, and tried to use my new friend as a human shield, whilst I was choking him to keep him subdued. My logic being, that by this point they’d shoot me if they got the line of sight, as I’d done enough to piss them off, but they wouldn’t take the risk to shoot their friend, if he was in the crossfires.
Crouching down made me easily reached by the man already in the car. So he poked his head out from the open door, and hit my head with god knows what, but it must’ve been metal, as my head started bleeding shortly thereafter. Obviously, I shifted my attention towards him to determine whether he was any immediate threat. I saw him, and he stared back at me angry, frightened and confused. The taxi driver was in hysterics by this point, his reaction to the whole thing makes me think that he was never in on it to begin with. In either case, the third assailant had seen this whole event take place and thus he doubled back to help his comrades. I was far too busy focusing on the other two to take notice of this fact.
That being said, he soon made his presence known when I felt I’d just been punched on the side of my chest. It later turned out that I’d been stabbed, but the adrenaline dulled any pain I might’ve otherwise felt, and I barely took any notice of this, as I also never saw the knife. This man had just stabbed someone who towered over them and was strangling his friend, who was close to passing out, and he had barely so much as flinched at being stabbed close to the heart and lung. It needn’t surprise the reader that fear and panic seemed to be the logical reaction, so he started mumbling, and muttering at me. He told me that I should let his friend go. I looked at him in the eyes, and told him I wouldn’t stop until he got into the car, and left me alone. Miraculously, he obeyed, and got into it. I let his friend go, grabbed my bag, and they sped off.
Calmly, I then walked to my house less than a street away, opened the door, and went inside to tell my father the tale of how I’d fended off my attackers. He wasn’t quite as excited as I thought he’d be, I still had adrenaline coursing through me and I was high on life, he was downright concerned. “Where exactly did they punch you?” he asked, as he remembered the story of the Austrian princess who got stabbed, but didn’t notice it until later because of her corset, and then bled to death shortly after. I said “just here” as I lifted up my leather jacket, the inside of which was already drenched in blood, alongside with my shirt.
I was terrified once I realized what had just happened, I had never seen so much blood in my life, and it just kept gushing at a steady rate. The adrenaline was also starting to wear off now, and I was getting dizzy, as well as feeling the pain of having a hole in your chest. It was clear that we had to go to the hospital immediately. Nevertheless, this is easier said than done in Mexico. To get there we had three options:
I. Ambulance: which is the first go-to option, but ambulances often take a lot of time there, and we weren’t quite sure whether I’d make it until then.
II. Driving there: this would be a great, fast and efficient option… if we had a car.
III. Taxi: really our only viable choice.
As such, we decided to go to a street corner nearby wherein we can find taxis every so often. I put my jacket back on, as no sane taxi driver is going to stop for a bleeding man, and my father puts clothes on, as he’d previously been reading in his pyjamas. Finally, we went outside, and we started walking. However, the adrenaline had fully worn off, and every step I took was taking its toll. Every. Breath. Took. So. Much. Effort. I believed that I was about to pass out. I also knew perfectly well what that meant, if I passed out, I would bleed out on the streets. I’m a burly man in stature and build, so my father would’ve had great difficulty lugging me around, he and I both knew this, but neither of us mentioned anything of what might happen.
Fortunately, we managed to get to the street corner, and shortly thereafter we get a taxi to take us there. I walked up to the emergency room, looked at the receptionist and smiled as I said “I sort of have a slight problem, could you guys please help me?” – I don’t think you can let an emergency get in the way of good humour.
Immediately, I get treated, and held for observation for the night, as my lung might yet collapse or they might’ve damaged my heart in some way. Luckily, none of those happened in the end, but as I was lying there, I realized something funny, and with much pain I started laughing. Firstly, my Easter vacations would be far longer this time around by about two weeks, as I was stabbed just before they’d started, I didn’t have to do homework that day. Secondly, I’d just been stabbed in the Ides of March, on the same day as Julius Caesar had gotten stabbed, and I just had to marvel at the hilarious coincidence.
Nevertheless, this whole experience made me question a few things. It was absolute random luck that I didn’t die on that day. Had I not been wearing a leather jacket to soften the blow, I might’ve died then. I thus realized that any normal day can actually turn for the worse, and you can actually die without warning, everything you’d planned on doing a decade down the line would never be done. You will rarely actually know that the day you’re living is actually your very last, but yet we like to take life for granted.
Additionally, people who say that a cause is worth fighting for because they are willing to die for it are absolute morons. I was willing to risk death for less than about $5 USD, was that worth it? I also have a confession to make, I am a pacifist through and through. I do not like violence, if it can be avoided, as I don’t like causing pain, but looking back at the whole experience, if I were to assign a single word to it, I’d say it was fun.
I loved the thrill, I loved the adventure of it, I loved my heart beating like it did. I felt alive. There’s something deep within us that is still very much a creature that time has long since forgotten. We still operate like we did 100,000 years ago, but we’re too egotistical to believe that this might be so. I think that’s one of our great sources of unhappiness, we try to forget what we are biologically predisposed to, in order to fit the nice mold that society has provided us with. In society we’re a square peg trying to fit in a round hole – to fit in we have to lose the edges and in the process lose a part of ourselves.
Is this truly what we want to be – a creature so complacent with comfort that it has forgotten the passion it had to live in the first place? I believe in science and technology, I believe in civilization, but I think something great is missing when we are scared of living if it means going outside our comfort zone. The adrenaline of the uncertain, the excitement, that’s what makes us feel alive. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. There might be horrors the likes you never imagined out there, but there are things so amazing your mind can barely comprehend them. Go out there, explore and do something crazy, you might enjoy what you find out there.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were close to dying? Did it change how you live your life?