The weapon was pulled out of his pocket on purpose. It was some kind of metal stabbing implement. It clanged on the floor when it fell. We were in a chemists waiting for prescriptions. He was shaking and pale but he needed to show me he was tough. He’d pushed into the queue and didn’t like it when I told him he was rude.
“What you gonna do…eh?” He said.
“You should have been quicker bruv. Anyway, don’t look at me like you’re a hard man. Fuck you.”
“I’m not hard, I just don’t think you should have pushed in.”
I went and stood near him to wait, and to show him I wasn’t scared – which, in truth, I wasn’t. He was mid twenties, thin – I guessed it was heroin thin. He was shaking like someone who isn’t used to having natural adrenaline pumping around their system right next to the cause.
He let the metal tool fall to the floor then picked it up and held it in his hand, making little motions, going through some fantasy fight in his brain. I stood motionless, waiting for the next step. The pharmacists eyed us with concern from behind the tall counter.
“Who are you then?” He asked after a few seconds, spitting out the words and barring his teeth.
“Who are you?” I replied.
“I asked you.”
“I’m not single if you’re trying to pick me up. I’ve got a girlfriend.” I looked right into his eyes. There was no fight there, only fear.
“Girlfriend….” he muttered. “I’ll give you ‘girlfriend’.”
“Look mate, just give it a rest.”
“Don’t you try and follow me out of here when I leave and where there’s no cameras because I will fuck you up where there’s no cameras.” His words came out, but he was shaking and his hands were nervous. The metal spike was rolling from one hand to the other. “I will fuck you up.”
“Listen…I’m not following you anywhere, just chill out.” I didn’t want to say those words, but it was the right thing, the DBT thing, the ‘good’ thing.
My prescription was called out. He stayed seated. I collected it from the scared looking member of staff and left slowly. Outside, walking away from the place in the winter sunshine, I felt bad for not waiting and taking him up on his offer; to unlock the anger inside again that has cursed me all these years, unknowing to this shithead, taking me through things he would never know. I walked looking up at the sky, thinking of therapy, the glorious pain of the punch, the pressure on my internal violence, the loss of what I was walking from. And I felt less of a man. A loser.
At home I took some diazepam and sat and thought of what I should have done – what I could have done. Three good weeks felt like they had disappeared down the Borderline Personality Disorder drain in seconds. Inner self-hate, my arm, and a kitchen knife saw to that.
There was never going to be a winner. I had lost without a punch being thrown.