Manhattan, middle of the day. A large black pickup suddenly flashes its blue police light and rushes through a red light, only to stop seconds later, a mere hundred steps from a nearly run-over yours truly. Two massive officers in bulletproof vests jump off the car to land on a figure that thrashes and struggles. The scene is happening in my direct path and I cannot cross over to the opposite sidewalk; as I get irremediably closer, the cries of the man being arrested become intelligible, and I spot a woman with a bloodied face scrambling herself up to her feet. The woman is yelling her lungs out and does not look guiltless in this affray, but she was the party that got beaten up, as is often the case whenever a dispute gets physical between man and woman.
I avert my eyes from the actors, but their actions, gore and all, are not what disturb me. Any city the size of New York will have its share of street brawls on any given day, and I’ve seen worse than this. I quicken my step to reach the spot and leave it behind as soon as possible. I avert my eyes from the actors, but I cannot stop staring at the surrounding scene. Nine people, presumably passers-by like myself, have stopped and, armed with smartphones, compete for the most advantageous position to immortalize this snippet of human misery between two broken individuals.
An uncomfortable feeling of hypocrisy, of my own hypocrisy, checks my harsh judgement of these nine pedestrians as the maddening uproar dies down to just the noises of the city and the screams in my head. Are my ramblings any better, pray? Don’t I capture and post inane content daily, continuously? Am I not immortalizing snippets of a different kind of human misery? I think I am. I know I am. I really, really want to believe myself better than someone who pushes the person standing next to them to film a better angle of the bleeding face of a stranger, but that does not mean that I am.
I missed the full experience that I get out of walking. Well, this is it. New York is back and so am I, for better or worse.