Tuesday, January 1, 2013

STARTING ANEW by Peter Nolan Smith

Someone once told me that how you spend the first day of the year depends how you will spend the rest of the year.

January 1, 2009 I awoke with a hang-over and thought about heading over to the 10th Street Bath to sweat out the poisons of December 31, 2008. Recovery seemed the perfect tone for the new year, except I rolled over on my side and fell back to sleep. Lethargy ruled by day. I read THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CIA until 3pm and then dressed for a late lunch on West 90th Street.

It was at an Episcopal church. The pastor was a woman in her 40s. I had been invited by her cousin, an actress from Quebec. My hang-over dissipated with the 2nd glass of wine and my body was replenished by ham and lentils. The conversation was entertaining and by 7pm I was feeling a little more human.

This was my New Years.

Friends, fine food, and wine.

I left the soiree early and took the Lexington Avenue south toward Union Square.

At 59th Street a large crowd got on the train. Most of them were young. Two Brazilian young men spoke with six well-dressed black girls. They were laughing, as if they had spent a good first day of the year, then the taller Brazilian backed away from the women with a raised right hand. He was giving them the finger.

"Putas. In my country I could kill you for rejecting me and the police would give me a medal." He was drunk, but several newspapers had reported on the noblisse oblige the police accord macho behavior. Only this wasn't Brazil and I told him, "Boyo, soy tranquilo. No one wants any trouble."

He muttered something under his breath and his friend sat next to him.

I got up and moved closer to the girls. A black man in a leather jacket mumbled, "This ain't over."

Two seconds later the tall Brazilian jumped from his seat and ran down the train. Several feet before the girls he leaped in the air to kick at the girls. This feat proved his undoing for he slipped and fell to the floor. As he rose to his feet with something in his hand, the girls pushed him away. I tried to restrain him, but he cut my hand with a sharp object.

My plans for the first day of the year changed with my kicking him in the stomach.

He went down and I made sure he stayed down.

At the next stop the black man and I tossed the unconscious attacker from the train onto the platform. I taught him a few more lessons about manners. I threw off his friend too, booting him in the ass for not controlling his friend.

I asked the girls if they were okay.

Two were crying, but neither had been hit.

Before they could thank the black man and me, a score of cops hustled onto the platform. They surveyed the two fallen men and questioned the girls about the incident.

"That guy attacked me." The prettiest one explained to a rookie policeman.

"And how they get laid out?" The cop was looking in my direction. I stuck my bloodied hand in my coat. The girl's eyes met mine and she said, "I didn't see anything."

"And what about you?" The cop's query was directed to the black man and me.

"All I saw was that guy attack these girls. They did nothing."

"Me too." The black man followed my lead.

"So you saw nothing?"


The engineer sounded the train was leaving the platform. The cop knew something was wrong, but only because we might have done something right.

The doors slid shut and the train pulled out of the station. I turned around and thanked the black man. He shook my hand. It was sore as was my knee. At 56 I don't give a beating without some damage.

Our fellow passengers applauded our actions. I was a little ashamed by the intensity of the violence, however 2008 had been a tough year, but 2009 promised to be better, because at least I wasn't spending the first night of the year in jail.


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