Unreliable Narrator: Tuesday Morning, Canal Street
“Never look back, except for an occasional glance, look ahead and plan for the future.” — Dorothy Draper
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13
Nothing helps when you get kicked on Canal Street. There is no balm to soothe the dull pain in your right hip that feels like it’s radiating heat even as your mind races in the aftermath of the event, trying to assure yourself that you must be mistaken; it must have been another bustling commuter that shoved past you. Then again, there were no other bustling commuters, at least not on your right side—just him, a short-middle aged man in a dark blue puffer, standing at the corner of Canal and Lafayette as you waited to cross the street.
Your arms were full: a garment bag protecting the dress you intended to wear to that night’s company holiday party, and a tote bag crammed with heels and makeup and two silk scarf options and a velvet clutch. You were single-handedly texting a friend while you waited for the light to change. Earlier that day, she’d been berated by an old man on the street who threatened to call the police on her for leaving her daughter in the car as she walked ten feet to drop her son off at the entrance to his preschool. Stunned, she’d burst into tears.
Nothing fell from your arms when you he kicked you. Your left hip simply jutted out sharply as your right hip angled inward before righting itself. You felt the impact at the exact moment that you looked up and saw the walk signal, and so your body was just beginning to propel itself forward when his booted foot struck you. You looked over to see what had just happened, brow furrowed, but your brain couldn’t process the situation as fast as your body, already in motion.
You simply crossed the street, frowning deeper and doing a double, triple take as the reality of what just happened set in.
That’s when a fierce heat flares across your entire person, rage and anxiety and embarrassment. You’re making your way up Lafayette and a part of you wants to turn around and march right back where you came from and scream—what the fuck was that?; a part of you doesn’t want to turn around for fear that this man is following you, preparing to inflict injury again; a part of you can’t believe that your freshly dry cleaned coat just made contact with the bottom of some scumbag’s shoe. There’s a telltale stinging sensation behind your eyes that you refuse to indulge. You’re experiencing seventeen different emotions at once, and you hope that, in the absence of a proper public meltdown, your outwardly nonchalant-seeming reaction confused the fucker.
You hope that in your moment of confusion, you at least denied him the reaction he was hoping to get.
Still—nothing helps when you get kicked on Canal Street. You will play the scene over and over in your head, contemplate a different route to work lest you run into him again tomorrow, try to tamp down the urge to let every bad feeling subsume you. You’ll get to work and plaster a good morning smile on your face, stare at your computer screen intently while you diligently try to erase each negative thought from your mind. Already you’ll start to wonder if maybe you’re overreacting, if maybe you haven’t earned the right to the anger you’re experiencing. Isn’t that always how it goes?
You’ll try, unsuccessfully, to channel these swirling currents into some kind of forward motion—an especially productive morning fueled by fury, perhaps. It won’t work. Later, though, in the comfort of your own home, you can put pen to paper and parse the absurdity of it all; give credence to your own thoughts, even the ones you haven’t fully formed yet. Other than that, nothing really helps when you get kicked on Canal Street.