Panic in the Streets of Melbourne

25 Mar

Official: I am a wimp.

I often give money to beggars. Small amounts, as I am never rich and only sometimes financially okay. Sometimes I figure that a coffee, a muffin and a chat are probably more meaningful and appreciated. I feel especially obliged if I can see the reasons why a person slipped through the cracks, and especially repulsed by people who are probably have more cash flow than me yet expect to be able to guilt me into funding their addictions.

Sitting in Bourke Street mall at 10pm last night, there was a lot of pedestrian traffic. In fits and starts, as dictated by the traffic lights. People alternated between surrounding me and being nowhere in sight every few minutes. During one of the silent times, a muscle-bound man with long, wavy black hair and no shirt came striding through the piazza. With distance and my lack of glasses, he looked like a Mills & Boon conjuration of Heathcliff.

Then he walked straight up to me and asked for money. I gave it to him. He thanked me, then left.

Then I realized the precariousness of what I had just done. I am petite; I am an ex-karate geek, but brute strength often wins easily against agility and speed. This man was obviously muscular, and could easily have been twice my weight. He was holding a lit cigarette which he waved dangerously close to my face as he talked, and I tried not to let myself imagine the sensation of it melting the skin on my cheek or the smell of burning flesh rising from my collarbone.  I also was struck by our proximity to dark empty alleyways, how short and flimsy my summer dress was, and the fact that I am a particularly wide-eyed girl who is constantly being told “22? You look 16”. And for the moment he decided the approach me, there was nobody else in sight. In Bourke Street. At 10pm on a Thursday.

Illusion of security = fleeting. I was pretty angry when he left; using fear as a tactic to take advantage of their charity is not cool.

At least I got dumplings to make it all better.

Cowardly Ophelia xx

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