“A DEFENSIVE MAN”
[Fictional Letter to the Editor]
As you reported in your paper, I was involved in an incident at The Angels Stop Coffee Shop. There have been some after effects of that incident which I would not have anticipated.
First, since it was not reported in your article, I want to briefly recount the incident from my point of view and how I felt at the time.
I had walked into the coffee shop and immediately observed that the situation was awry. That, in itself, was unusual for me. You may not know this, but, in general, I tend not to notice much. For example, recently I had mentioned to the proprietor of the shop that there was a new circular decal on the glass door: something to do with legal music. He answered that that decal had been there since the shop opened three years ago. Oh. Well. Okay. There are many other such examples, but I don’t want to be tedious. I just wanted to give you a sampling of my inattentive abilities. No Jason Bourne here. In addition, I like regularity, I am shy, I do not converse easily with others and I simply tend not to notice the environment around me because, when I do, it can be overwhelming.
But this time was different.
In fact, when I stepped in, I became hyperaware within two seconds and felt that a part of me which had been closed off had become reopened. I noted that there were two aggressively postured men on the first floor–one near the door I had entered, and another leaning not so casually against the counter. There was also a third man on the balcony with his hands hidden below the wooden rail. None of these men had observable weapons, but their manner of looking at me told me that they were dangerous. And I do not know why I thought that. I did not know any of them and they did nothing overtly threatening. At the same time, I noticed two people sitting at a table leaned over, forehead on hands, as if they were asleep. Each had next to them an upright person each with a hand on the leaning person’s back. For some reason, in only those brief seconds, even though there was no observable blood, I got the impression that those two leaners were dead. Others in the coffee shop did smile at me, but they looked to be forced smiles and their eyes darted nervously at the aggressively postured men. Those three also smiled at me although I could not say I felt comforted by the smiles.
Anyway, this was enough for me to decide to leave. I turned around. However, by that time, the man next to the door had stepped behind me and said, with what I suppose was his idea of a joking tone,
“Hey, you just arrived. Don’t leave so soon. Let’s get acquainted and maybe have some fun.”
He said more stuff. Your paper had reported that there was dialogue between us. What you did not report was that, while he was talking and making jokes about people who were heartless or who had achieved holiness, I was thinking about how I did not remember ever having hurt anybody before in my life. I did not want to hurt anybody now. It was not my intention to hurt anybody. I just wanted to leave. And that refrain kept going through my head, “I want to leave, I want to leave, I want to leave, I want to leave” and when I finally verbalized my thought without thinking about speaking it, the man put his hand on my shoulder and showed a gun in his pocket in the other hand, and responded, “you can’t.”
It was, at that point, that the situation overwhelmed me and, without thinking, I reacted. I cannot tell you what went through my head at that moment because my mind was blank. As you dutifully reported, I somehow did a series of actions which would have astounded me if anybody had ever told me that that is what I would do one day: I stomped on the man’s foot, grabbed his gun, slammed him back through the glass door, threw the gun at the face of the man on the balcony who fell back, kicked a chair at the man at the counter knocking him over, stomped on the upper chest of the fallen man behind me when he tried to get up (and thus embedding glass shards into him), ran over and kicked the back of the head of the counter man, jumped onto the counter, then the top of the refrigerator and then up onto the balcony, tossed the guy up there over the balcony, and finally, jumped down onto his stomach from the balcony. At one point, one of the men, before dying, inexplicably smiled and whispered, “Finally…did it…worked.”
So far as I remembered at that moment, I had never recalled killing before. I had not intended to kill. I had just reacted.
As your readers know, I was charged with excessive force. This, even though the three men had indeed killed the two leaners and even though the police later reported that they were the three brothers who had supposedly been on an interstate murder spree. (Strangely, a news reporter at another newspaper questioned whether it was these three who had actually been the interstate killers and whether the killings were even related.) I had only defended myself. I guess that is why I was not charged with murder. Still, I was convicted of excessive force and the judge said that he was letting me off easy: his sentence was that I be declared a lethal weapon. No fine or prison, for which I am grateful.
Yeah, right, I “got off” with “only” being declared a lethal weapon.
Editor, what you and your readers do not fully realize is that, even though I defended myself and probably saved the lives of the others in that shop, I have been mocked, ridiculed, and feared since then. I have been prohibited from going to local school and college activities because they think I am dangerous and, as it was pointed out to me, “after all we do not let weapons on campus.” I am no longer allowed at the coffee shop. People have left messages on my answering machine and on my various social media accounts calling me a “murderer” and “freak. “
Sometimes guys I don’t know come up to me saying, “I’ll bet you’re getting the babes now!” and then nudging me hard. I used to say “hello” to everybody I passed by. Now, everybody ignores me or looks at me nervously as if, at any moment, I’m going to rip their head off. (It’s true that the head I kicked of the guy at the counter became partially detached from the neck.) Women who used to greet me with a smile instead now turn their head away. I have been fired from my job because “I make employees uncomfortable.” I even tried to get a job at a fast food restaurant. They refused to hire me by stating, “You have blood on your hands. You will remind our customers of the horrible evil that happens.”
So now I am jobless and rejected. I cannot do the community activities I did previously.
What can I do?
Somebody suggested that I leave town.
“Where?” I responded.
“Go back home.”
I have no home. I moved 20 times when I was younger. My father and stepfather are both dead. My mom is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t know who I am. None of my other family members live in any of the places that I have ever lived. There is no home to go back to.
“Go to New York. They take all the freaks.”
And what would I do there?
Many of you here in this rural area have lived here all of your lives. You have extended family here. You have a home. You have roots.
I do not.
I have no home.
I have no roots.
I have no other place to go.
I came here because I wanted to live in a small town so that I could eventually see familiar faces and, until now, people have been nice to me.
But now I don’t know what do. I am feeling overwhelming pressure to leave, but I like it here and I don’t know where else to go.
What do I do?
Editor’s note: Shortly after we received this letter, the police informed us that neighbors reported that a bunch of vehicles had converged on the residence of Ahnold S. where there was a brief, very violent scuffle. Blood samples from at least eight different people were found. He has been reported as missing.
Originally written 1/27/2004; revised 2/2017
Cw: murder, death, amnesia, roots, coffee shop, violence, midwest