“What do people see in you?” a man sneered.
“What?” I was caught off guard. I was just coming back from the hospital, and while I had pretty much ignored everyone there was no way I was going to ignore this one. I turned around, thinking he was talking to me, but that wasn’t so. He was talking to a woman. She was folded in on herself, just as stunned as I was.
The girl tried to speak. Her voice broke. “Baby--”
“Don’t baby me, slut,” he hissed. I knew he wasn’t talking to me, but the words stung. The woman flinched as the guy spoke again, saying more mean things and probably giving a clue as to what they were talking about, but I couldn’t focus on that. I could only focus on how hurt the woman looked.
How angry the guy was shook my insides. I'd never seen someone so enraged. I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, we all were, but others, random strangers, paid no mind as they passed. The man didn’t notice me, but the woman did. She glanced at me, as if worried I’d do something.
The more I watched and the more dirty things I heard, the more I felt like getting involved. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. He was insisting that she was cheating on him, calling her trash, but she just denied it and despite the mean things he said, she tried to calm him down, reassure him. She kept telling him that she loved him. She wasn’t crying, but she looked ready to. The emotions in my started to boil. I was in no mood to witness this transaction. The woman looked so broken it lit a fire inside of me. A hot, messy fire that made my cheeks burn with shame at the thought that we --this guy and I-- shared a species.
It was when she reached out to touch him that I got involved. He slapped her hand away, and his feet shuffled. That’s how I knew he was going to strike. His body tensed, ready release the tense with punch or two, but I got there first. It all happened so quick. I punched him. He didn’t expect anyone to step in, and the action took him off guard. He fell to the ground, the sudden change in direction scattering his balance. I hopped on top of him and I kept punching him.
“Don’t you ever lay a hand on her!” I screamed. It came out as a barbaric screech, filled with fury and sadness I didn't know I'd been keeping to myself.
The people around us jumped away, also caught of guard. The woman folded more into herself more, her tears finally spilling, and someone grabbed her to protect her, pulling her behind him, then grabbed my hips and pulled me back too. He stepped in front of me, all shoulders and muscle. I had half a mind to charge past him and slap around the guy again. The pressure boiling in my stomach told me to, and my heart pounded in my chest ready to engage in a fight.
But, the guystood up. He staggered to his feet like the pathetic waste he was and found my eyes. The anger in his tense body turned my blood cold. He was staring at me with eyes that said I was dead. I scowled at him, giving him a look that said he was lucky there was another person between us. As much as I willed it to leave, his threat was something I noted.
“You don’t hurt women,” the man in front of me hissed. His voice was deep and rough. It suited him considering he was such a big muscled guy. He stepped forward, blocking the guy’s vision, so I could only see the man’s back. His words made me look away from the guy. Seeing him standing in front of me reminded me of Donny, how I was always being protected. I stared at his back for a moment before my eyes dropped to the ground. What had I done? “You don’t ever hurt a woman.”
The angry trash looked around, taking in everyone that surrounded him. They gave him defiant looks, as if daring him to do something. He scowled, and covered his face. He was hiding his bruises. Bruises that I gave him.
I suddenly felt sick.
I didn’t hurt people. I didn’t like violence. I didn’t want to hit people. My heart clenched and suddenly I realized that I was crying. The woman shuffled over to me, and tapped me on the shoulder. “Are you okay?” she whispered. Her eyes were also downcast.
I shook my head. “I don’t hit people,” I said. “I’m sor--”
“He deserved it,” she cut in. Her voice was strong and powerful, but she quickly shrank back into herself. “He was going to hurt me, and you stopped him. Thank you.”
I gave her a look. I didn’t mean to, but I gave her the look that showed everything. I was sorry and her thank you meant nothing to me. I had broken a code of mine. Talk big, never strike. As many times as I always threatened it, I would never hit someone like I did now. I’d just hit people playfully, and even then it felt wrong. I felt embarrassed. The girl laid a hand on my arm just as muscles turned around.
“Did he hurt you?” he asked, looking over me. I didn’t respond. The girl looked at me funny, like my reaction was wrong. As if I was some sort of hero, and she was a confused child that believed the superheroes didn’t cry.
I waved off his attempts to check, and for the second time today I walked away without responding. I think I was getting good at blocking out my problems.