Brutal – Episode 1

My friend told me a classic response of someone who has been mugged. You feel daft for not avoiding it. Taking a slightly different route home, or stopping when you saw them coming and running off in the opposite direction. When I saw the three guys in my path I didn’t avoid them. I don’t normally run into anyone at 4.30am on a Thursday morning. Actually my first response was to give them a very wide berth, but my second thought was ‘don’t be paranoid’. Why should I be worried about cycling past a 40-year old guy in a yellow high-visibility jacket and two young lads? 

You can’t go around scared avoiding people all the time. Nevertheless if I had been more paranoid about these guys I wouldn’t have had my jaw broken in two places and my stuff ripped off. Inevitably, if you’re in the habit of having paranoid fears about people in the street, and have become adept at dismissing these paranoid fears for what they are, you’re going to be wrong sometimes, lol. 

I got the beat down and they ran off with my phone, bike, keys, eighty quid and assorted items. By some fluke this was the second time this year I did not have my wallet on me, so they did not have my bank cards and address to accompany my house keys. 

I also managed to recover my glasses, which had been knocked off with the first punch. Unlike me, they were unharmed and still in one piece. I was stunned but still standing. There was no-one around to call for help. In this neighbourhood, I knew that there wasn’t much value in knocking on doors. The householders would probably ignore the doorbell, especially if they looked out the window and saw a man covered in blood wobbling around on the doorstep. I made my way to the main road. It was just about light now, in a grey, drizzly, nasty sort of way. A car came down the road and I waved for the driver to stop but naturally he didn’t. 

I’m no medical man but I knew my jaw was broken. I didn’t feel a lot of pain but when I put my hand to my chin I experienced a novel sensation – the left side of the jaw could move up and down on its own, free and separate to the right-hand side. My teeth were intact but the second fracture on the right side meant that from the canine to the last molar the teeth were resting higher than the others, at an angle such that the canine had penetrated into my gum. 

I could still talk, and made my way to the tram stop to summon help. I found assistance from two binmen. While we waited for the police and ambulance to arrive, one of them offered the words of comfort that would become familiar over the next couple of weeks – ‘bastards’. Usually accompanied with a shake of the head, a gaze into the near distance and perhaps a tut tut. ‘Bastards, ain’t they. There’s some bastards in this world.’ 

The paramedic said that I would probably wouldn’t have to wait long in Accident and Emergency because there would not be many people in there at 5am on a Thursday morning. The first doctor I saw asked me what happened and then asked me more questions about where, who, why. Why was he so interested in chewing the cud with a broken-jawed man? In conversation he referred to the incident as ‘this alleged attack’ or ‘this alleged robbery’. I took umbrage but kept my mouth shut. 

I waited in the waiting room for my X-ray to come back. There was a Phillipino family with some kind of ailment, a cleaner, a few vending machines, some hard chairs, a security guard talking to his mate he had ran into whom he had not seen since school, and I. By this time my mouth had swollen up inside and out, making me look somewhere between the cartoon character American Dad and Marlon Brando in the Godfather. My face and clothes were covered in blood. I turned round to ask the security guard which hospital we were in. He told me Queens Med. Then he commented to his mate about me as if I wasn’t there – ‘he’s bin battered’. 

They transferred me to a ward but couldn’t find me a bed so I got a couple hours kip on a chair. I woke up with seven doctors in my face explaining that my jaw was broken and they would have to operate to fix it. The operation could happen in a couple of hours or a couple of days depending on my progress on the emergency list. In the meantime one of the doctors injected a local anaesthetic into my mouth and produced a pair of pliers and a coil of 24 gauge wire. He pushed the wire through my gum and out again to bind together two pieces of my jaw. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything so they put a fluids drip into my arm. 

My sister arrived with a box of toffees and a deck of cards. We played a little Gin Rummy and read the newspaper. Across the room was a man who was getting ready to be discharged. He had not been able to speak for a few months due to a severe throat infection but an operation had cleared it all up. I wanted my operation to happen as soon as possible so that I could bounce around like him, waiting for a taxi to take him home. 

My sister was the first person I phoned when I got to hospital and also happened to be the last contact I had dialled the night before. That might be why she got a surprise phone call from the muggers a few minutes after the incident. They were laughing and joking like schoolchildren. When she related this to me I was reminded of how the men acted as they fled the scene of the crime. They were giggling like schoolboys who had just got away with a prank. At time of writing it would seem that they have indeed got away with it, as the police have nothing more to go on than a blurred CCTV image. 

I got a really good look at the older guy of the three as he spoke to me before the attack. He was the one in the high-visibility jacket who first flagged me down. When he started speaking, as the lads surrounded me, I realised a few things, one after the other, and all a little too late. Firstly, he was drunk. Secondly, although he told me he was a traffic warden, he was almost certainly not a traffic warden, and was in fact a tramp. Thirdly I began to suspect that I would not be able to humour this guy with a smile and a few words as I continued my journey home. Perhaps these guys wanted more than a stop-and-chat. My suspicions were confirmed as I received a spray of unknown liquid to the face and a punch to the jaw. 

A week later, looking through pages of mug shots, I could see a few faces that could be the tramp in the high vis jacket. ‘Could be’ is not good enough however, and as he could not be positively identified it is likely that the man is not on police records and is still out walking the streets. Perhaps in Nottingham, perhaps in another city. I wonder if his young partners in crime were already known to him or whether they had randomly teamed up that night, wandering the streets with nowhere to go at half four on a Thursday morning. Drunk or high on drugs, the value that they put on the person in the mirror so low, and the value of other human beings so meaningless, that robbing and beating a man on his way home from work is not only a gainful and worthwhile act but also a thrill and meaningful and something to laugh about. 

It would be satisfying to see the men punished for what they’ve done, but surely men with lives like this are punishing themselves every day. Trapped in a sh*t life. Anyway if they don’t get caught for mugging me they’ll probably get sent down for something else.

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