May 4, 2012 2 Comments
Last night while walking home, I realized how similar laughter and crying sound. We all thought that the woman in the car, sitting next to the man, that she was laughing. And then it dawned on us one by one, sort of at different times, like a wave rippling over a group of people, that she was crying. And crying loudly. He was beating her. He was punching her. He had her hunched over in the front seat and was punching the back of her head and body.
We all just stood there in shock for a moment. It was me and three of my coworkers and another new girl we’ve met in the neighbourhood recently. And then a Korean guy walking a few feet behind us. It was late so the streets were pretty deserted. By this time we’d all had a few drinks. We’d been out for dinner earlier. I don’t know how compromised everybody was. I know one girl had been unable to finish her beer at the last location because she was already tipsy and I was definitely feeling a good buzz. I don’t know where everyone else was at and so maybe that’s part of what slowed our reaction. But eventually it became very clear that this was a man beating a woman in a car. While driving. They were stopped at a red light and that’s why we saw them.
Eventually I yelled “hey” really loud to try and get him to stop. Or at least feel some embarrassment that he was being watched. I don’t think he even heard me. Then the light changed and they drove off. And as they drove off he was holding her by hair on the back of her head.
Later, it came up in conversation again. Just the shock we were feeling about it. It’s kind of weird to go off and sit and have drinks in front of the 7/11 (which you can do here), and try to pretend that what happened didn’t just happen. As it was brought up later, one of my coworkers mentioned that he couldn’t tell what was going in the car initially because his eyesight is so bad and he really is supposed to be wearing glasses all the time, but he doesn’t. He had actually waved to the couple in the car because he thought they were laughing and couldn’t see what was happening. Somehow that just devolved into a conversation about bad eyesight and not how piss poor our reaction was overall. That’s the funny thing about these situations–how quickly you bury them. There was an implicit group decision to not talk about it again after a point.
I felt some ridiculous, ridiculous pride in the fact that I had tried something. At least I yelled when nobody else around me did anything. Not the four other foreigners I was with, not the Korean man walking behind us looking vaguely shame faced on behalf of his fellow countryman. The most that happened with all of us was me yelling “hey” and I took some comfort in that, but it’s ridiculous to take any comfort in that because what I did was completely ineffectual. It was probably more than I would have done if I had actually been completely sober, to be honest. It was was probably more than I would have done if I had been alone and not felt some sort strange maternal need around all these people younger than me to take charge of the situation in some way. But it still wasn’t nearly enough. It wasn’t close to enough.
I don’t know if I could have done more, but I immediately felt guilty. I immediately felt like I should thrown down my shit and run over to that intersection, run into the street and pulled her out of the car. I should have gone over and at least yelled at him enough that he felt something. I should have written down the license plate number, which I started to think about doing and then I realized that I couldn’t read the Korean characters fast enough to note them as the car drove away.
Unfortunately I can imagine what happened to that woman when they got home last night. I’m sure it’s not the first time it’s happened. But it’s sick that that five people stood there and it happened again.