Walking alone at night is something I have never thought twice about, regardless of how many drinks I’ve had. Even when I was attending Miami University at the same time as Ben Rothlisberger, even when I was one of few natural blondes within the city limits of Florence or Barcelona- I have always felt safe in the dark and confident in my own physical abilities. I still feel that way, although I’ve been fortunate to have always resided in places where I could feel safe. Combine said confidence with a few, or several drinks, and I become a force to be reckoned with- or so I like to think.
What happened to me late one night on the Charles Bridge didn’t change these feelings at all. Even afterward, my local friends assured me of what I already believed- that Prague is quite safe, aside from the occasional pickpocketing which is easily avoidable if you’re careful. The incident I had with several young men from Pakistan was a one-off, and shouldn’t be considered as a representation of anything typical.
It was very late one night in the middle of summer in 2010. It was probably around 2 a.m. when I had polished off a bottle of wine and decided to walk to the Charles Bridge and sit for awhile before going to bed. I loved that bridge at those hours, in its rare moments of barrenness, free from tourists and feeling the wind blow through my hair as I watched lights twinkling on the bank of Old Town. I usually listened to the river below, and the breeze, but that night I had brought my iPod, my earphones stuffed in as I was sitting under one of the statues flanking the bridge, about halfway down. I hadn’t seen a single person on the bridge when I had settled into my spot, so it was a surprise when a few minutes later a young man appeared beside me, signaling for me to remove my earphones.
“Hello, do you have some krowns, so I can get something to eat?”
I said that I was sorry, but I didn’t have any krowns to give him. It was true, all I was carrying were my keys and my iPod, which I clutched in my hand, as I was wearing yoga pants that didn’t have any pockets. And anyway, this guy was dressed like he had just emerged from a bar, and looked sufficiently fed. I turned away, not feeling too broken up about the fact that I couldn’t help him out.
A few seconds later, I tuned to see that several young men had appeared alongside him. They were dressed in the same style of clothing, all sporting the same gelled black hair. Had I blinked, and this guy replicated himself right there in front of me? One bottle of Aussie wasn’t nearly enough to leave me with multiple-vision. I didn’t count them, but I’m sure there were more than five of these guys. Seven or eight, I would guess. Some shorter than others, but each one tan-skinned, strong-featured, and looking like they had either come from or were en route to a nightclub.
“Do you like penn iss?” one of them asked.
In an instant I was taken aback, equally amused by this guy’s pronunciation of the word “penis” as I was annoyed by such a question. I uttered a dramatic sigh, and swung my legs over the side of the wall and hopped down.
“Well, thanks, assholes. I was really enjoying myself here until you started bugging me.”
The gelled-hair unit started calling me names as I started away, which I didn’t like one bit. What happened next was incredibly ballsy on my part, or, if you want to scold me about it- it was downright idiotic.
I swung around and aimlessly delivered a swift backhand, which landed across the face of the short guy in the middle of the unit. Without missing a beat, he sent one back, which grazed my cheek before I had the chance to react.
“Fuck you, bitch! I am from Pakistan!” the short Gel Unit member was shouting, struggling as other members of the Unit were holding him back. It became apparent that this guy had every intention of beating the living shit out of me.
“Oh, fucking WOW! How proud you must be! Fuck you, you little squirt piece of shit! Go home and facefuck a goat! Did you hit me with the same hand you wipe your ass with?!” I was screaming, on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched like a belligerent frat boy.
The shouting of mindless insults and throwing up our hands continued as the Gel Unit and I backed away from eachother, and finally I grew tired of shouting. I turned around and power-walked back toward my flat, seething. Despite the dwindling alcohol buzz and the rapid-fire of the past forty-five seconds, my mind was very clear. There was a pulsing surge of awareness of my own body; my breath filling and leaving my chest, my muscles tensed and ready, my lips parted and tight. I wasn’t thinking anything at all. This must be the Eastern Zen experience that I’ve read about. This must have been the only time in my life I felt such clarity in my mind, and what better people to deliver me to this experience, than people from lands East.
Looking back, I really hope the man from Pakistan didn’t strike me with the same hand he wipes his ass with. There’s a 50/50 chance.