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Brush With Danger

The young teenager, let's say he was 14 though his exact age doesn't really matter, what matters is that he was of an age where was physically unable to defend himself from two fully grown adult men, a detail which would matter in a few moment, was cycling home from school after an absolutely average day. A forgettable day. Like a Wednesday. Or a Thursday. It was the time of year when summer had basically already begun but you would still get some pointless comments from your peers if you already busted out the shorts like, “Woah, feeling optimistic aren't we?” This was a comment the teenager had already suffered through many times from his various teachers at school that day.

This was a long, long straight road the teenager knew very well. He lost track of the number of times he had cycled down it and the one time he tried to work it out ended with him stopping before he was finished as he quickly found the number was getting depressingly high. Over time, he'd naturally formed relationships with little landmarks along the road which told how far along in his journey he was. The music shop (still ways to go), the Nigerian restaurant (about a quarter of the way), the posh houses section (almost at the end), the dodgy kebab place (10 more minutes and he's home).

This particular ride home would not be as uneventful as usual. The incident took place in the part of the road where there are no discernible landmarks which had become its own landmark in the teenager's head (about halfway). There weren't even any traffic lights in this section, just a pedestrian crossing which the teenager had never seen anyone use. The takeaway here is that there is no reason to ever have to slow down on this part of the road or even pay much attention to what's in front of you so the teenager had zoned out, blasting heavy metal into his ears through his earphones. Of course, this was the day that someone, or rather two people, used the pedestrian crossing right as the teenager was riding up to it. Who could be blamed for initiating the incident that followed is debatable. The teenager should paid more attention to the road, seen the pedestrians and come to a gradual stop. Then again, maybe the pedestrians should have looked at both sides of the road and noticed a clearly not-in-the-moment teenager bombing down the empty road. Regardless of whose side you fall on, the fact remains that the two parties were on a collision course and had the teenager not noticed them at the last possible moment and gripped his brakes as hard as he could, this would have been a story about a teenager fleeing from the scene of an accident and committing a possible hit-and-run rather than the one we ended up with.

The pedestrians did not take kindly to being nearly run over by a scrawny bespectacled teenager and did the only reasonable thing to do in a situation like this and began hurling abuse at him. The teenager briefly locked eyes with one of the two men shouting him because no sooner had he come to a halt, he was already trying to circumvent them with his bike, and what he saw only made him move faster because he could tell these were not the kinds of people you could reason with. The look lasted had only a second but that was that was all the time the teenager needed to deduce that these were the kinds of people who loudly play aggressive music on their phones when riding the bus, make obnoxious noises when entering a public establishment such as a bar or a McDonald's to establish their alpha-male dominance and hang out late at night in parks smoking, drinking and spitting. What the teenager saw behind those eyes was a brain operating at minimum capacity and maximum aggression and the momentary fear he had caused within it by nearly crashing into the body it was occupying had launched it into full macho over-compensation mode. He had to get out of there basically.

And for a few seconds, that's what seemed to be happening. The teenager was going around them, content to take the insults being hurled his way and about halfway through his circumvention the man he had locked eyes with threw a punch which hit him right on the temple. Though maybe threw a punch is a bit of an overstatement. More like lazily tossed one his way as an afterthought, as if using violence to solve problems was something this man did so frequently that sometimes his heart just wouldn't be in it. The teenager didn't even properly register the punch until he was riding away from them and even then, it took a few minutes for a dull ache to to take hold in the teenager's head as the punch hadn't really hurt on impact.

The teenager always figured he would one day be assaulted by a stranger. He didn't think of it as a certainty but live a long and varied enough life, and chance are you're going to get punched in the head by someone you don't know. He just didn't think it would happen so casually. You'd think you would take something away from such an experience, some kind of lesson. But no, the only thing he could take away from this was “Well, I just got punched in the head.”

Which, as statements go, isn't widely applicable.

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