The longest night

It’s 3:35 a.m. and I can’t sleep.

It makes sense that I shouldn’t. She can’t sleep in peace; why should I? She isn’t anyone I know, in fact, I’ve never met her before. I have, however, met her boyfriend for a brief moment, an encounter that has stuck with me all night and probably throughout the rest of the week. Her encounter will last a lot longer.

After work, I went to Wal-Mart. Around the corner, I saw the girl standing by her shopping cart and then a hand slap her in the back of the head. I thought it was a joke; maybe she was with a friend. She wasn’t with a friend, it was her boyfriend.

She started to cry and quickly exited the store. He came around the corner with a mean look on his face as if he didn’t hit her hard enough.

“Hey,” I said.

“What?” he said, turning his anger to me.

“Is she alright?” I asked.

“Yeah, she’s alright. That’s my girl.”

That’s not his girl. She’s nothing to him. She probably loves him, but it’s not mutual. Maybe she doesn’t love; maybe she has low self-esteem and feels that she doesn’t deserve better. For all I know, maybe she doesn’t deserve better.

But this is isn’t about her or him or what they deserve. It’s about us – you and me.

I told him not to hit her. Apparently, he didn’t like that, so he invited me outside. I didn’t oblige.

I intervened but kept my distance. I manned up but woosed out. I confronted but didn’t have a confrontation.

As much as I wanted to start wailing on that guy, I didn’t. What would have been the purpose? If I was arrested, would the police understand my point of view? We have learned to stay out of people’s way.

I was once a pastor’s son; I was once a youth pastor, and I realized that the more time I spent with people the more I repeated myself. I found that few wanted help. Most people want a shoulder to cry; they want a little nourishment for their crisis. As soon as they are strong enough to stand up, they walk right back into their hell.

We wonder why there are no heroes. They are all overseas. Heroes have lost their reason for existence.

We wonder why there are so many villains. We allow their behavior. We criticize their actions, while the damsel in distress runs to the guy that beats her physically and emotionally. And that’s okay because that’s his girl. We boldly say, “I don’t condone his actions” but won’t do one thing about it.

We get back in line, pay for our ice cream and cookies and stay up all night wishing we had done it differently. Just like I did.

–Dustin Bass

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