Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Random Acts of Violence

This weekend was a particularly strange one for me. Well, stranger for my best gal-pal Debra, but strange definitely for me as well.

May 1 is my other gal-pal friend Lora's birthday. She was having a party that night at her house, so I spent the day doing, well, nothing in particular, just kinda gearing up to go to the party. Perhaps I considered purchasing a six-pack or something to take with me to the festivities. Never did do that, though.

The phone rings. For some reason, I don't answer it. It's Lora. She leaves me a voicemail that says, in its entirety, "When you get this message, call me." Finding that message strange, and just a bit annoying, I decided not to return the call until later.

The phone rings again a few hours later. The caller ID identifies it as Debra. Again, I choose not to pick up the phone. (I was in a mood, I guess.) No message left. Actually, I don't think it even rang for long enough to get to voicemail.

Immediately after Debra hangs up her phone, Joe calls. He leaves a voicemail too: "Hey, call me when you get this message." Again, no substance. Grrr.

So around 8:30 or 9:00, I finally call both Lora and Joe back. (Debra not having left a message, I decided not to return her call.) Lora wasn't in so I left her a voicemail. (She also has no cell phone, a fact which meets with considerable ire from many of us, because she is such a social butterfly that many times she's next to impossible to pin down.) Left a message with Joe too. Both messages: "Hey, returning your call. What's up?"

So at around 9:45, I speak to a human being for possibly the first time that day. Joe returned my call. "Did you hear about Debra?" he says. "No, what about Debra?" I respond. I'm getting slightly concerned now. Joe's next sentence does very very little to alleviate my nervousness: "First off, just to be clear, she's fine."

"Oh my God," I spit back, "What happened that you have to tell me that she's fine?!?"

Debra got stabbed on Saturday night. It was quite the act of randomness and, in fact, was quite hideously violent. Apparently, Debra had just left her apartment, having changed and freshened up after a long day of shopping, and was heading out to meet someone for dinner when, less than a block from her house on Irving Street NW in Mt. Pleasant, she was grabbed by the arm and stabbed in the neck. Yes, that's right, the neck.

Debra began screaming (we find out later that, luckily, the stabber has managed to miss every last important thing in her neck) and running literally into the street to summon assistance. Bear in mind that this is occurring at approximately 7:00 pm -- it's still plenty bright out, and there are still people around. For some reason no one is responding to her entreaties, though, so she literally throws her purse at him and says, "Here, just take it!"

Odd thoughts of a strange man wielding a bloody knife cavorting off with a bright pink purse notwithstanding, the man didn't take the purse. Instead, he followed her into the street and stabbed her again, in the back, before he finally retreated.

Finally, people emerge to help Debra. One woman is sitting with her trying to keep her coherent. A Metro bus driver has stopped his bus and is holding a cloth to Debra's throat to help stem the bleeding. (Unfortunately, someone soon pointed out that she had been stabbed in the back as well. So when that someone lifted up her jacket, the nice woman who was with her promptly passed out at the sight of the second stab wound. Debra found herself sitting there, bleeding from two knife wounds, thinking, "Great. It must be pretty damn bad if this chick is passing out on me. And I'm the one that's bleeding!".)

Well, putting aside all the other details that follow, Debra was taken to the Washington Hospital Center, where she was found to have a collapsed lung. A most hideous tube was inserted into her (somewhere -- I didn't lift up her blanket to try to figure out where exactly the tube was connected to her) to drain her lungs, which, presumably, would help revive the fallen lung. She was treated there for a few days.

So I spent much of my weekend at a hospital. I hate hospitals. The super-sanitary smell alone is enough to make me want to vomit. But I sat there next to Debra, and with my friend Lora, for quite a while just keeping her company.

As an added irony, Lora herself was born in the Washington Hospital Center. So, twenty-nine years to the day, Lora finds her back there. Not the most fun way to celebrate a birthday, but hey.

Debra's a trooper. To the extent that she could talk (she was pretty drugged up, and that drainage tube was pretty painful), she was her usual sarcastic self ("So they gave me these painkillers, but since I hadn't eaten before the stabbing, I got all sick and started throwing up. Not fun when you have a knife wound in your neck."), which I found to be excellent. I give her snaps for still having that kind of spirit when she's been the victim of a violent crime.

Her mom came down from New York to be with her, and Debra was discharged by Monday afternoon. A bunch of us went over to her place last night and had an impromptu "get better/welcome home" party. I brought a bunch of cheesy videos from my personal collection with me, since Debra doesn't have cable and would likely be bored out of her skull.

They caught the guy who did it. He's been arraigned on a charge of Assault With Intent to Kill. Despite the best efforts of my attorney friends and me (none of whom practice criminal law), we can't see the difference between that and Attempted Murder. But we'll take what we can, long as the bastard sees plenty of time behind bars, where he will hopefully be met with the long end of a big, thick penis finding its way to places he doesn't want one to go.