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Year 2000. “I never underestimate my opponent, but I never underestimate my talents”. Hale Irwin

I got an email from the plant manager in Singapore asking me a favour. He wrote that his former secretary at Shanghai plant, when he was there on duty, had moved to Australia and was now living in Sydney. He asked if I could take Eco (her nickname) out for dinner because she did not have friends, yet. A few days later I answer him to acknowledge my acceptance. He made a call to Eco to let her know that soon I would give her a call which I did as promised.

We decided for Friday, the 24th of October. I rang her apartment # at 42 Bridge Street and 5 minutes later she showed up in the entrance. We shake our hands, said our names again and ready to run down to Circular Quay where I previously booked a table for two at Aria water front restaurant. Over the phone I told her that I did not knew any Chinese restaurant so we had to go western food and preferable Australian. This restaurant had a delicious starter made of kangaroo minced meat with a hint of ginger and marinated with pomegranate juice. Although not being a meat lover, I really loved this starter, a small portion enough for 3 bites, just enough, to go along with a sip of an Australian Shiraz.

The dinner was a straight forward thing. When looking at the menu the waitress handled to us I noticed Eco was twisting and bitting her lips a little bit in a sign of doubting what to take. I offer to recommend her something which she did accept. While walking down on Macquarie Street to the restaurant she told me she had a veg tendency though not one hundred percent, not yet, she insisted. I had that in memory and I suggested her to take a slight spicy carrot soup with almonds for a started while I took the kangaroo minced meat. For the main course I suggested her  a Norwegian salmon diving in green salad with couscous rice while I took a real Australian steak I was longing for. Twice a week I had a real one to feed the energies I was spending with my joggings. She was happy with the choices and enjoyed. At least she ate everything and said it was more delicious than she expected. Obviously I was relieved!

When the dinner was about to finish and our conversations were about to wrap-up I asked Eco what was the reason for her to emigrate to Australia at a moment where work and career opportunities were rising so sharply in China and specially in Shanghai. Moreover with her background it would be no problem to find a job in another very good company again. She looked at me, straight on my eyes, made a pause with a sad face while one tear rolled down her cheek. I am lesbian Joaquim, and that is still very unacceptable in China. I don’t want my mother to know the kind of life I shared with someone, she will not understand this is not a choice, she will not understand I born as it is. I want her to live and die in peace without knowing it, and Australia is a safe heaven to harbour both feelings….

At that time I still liked to go out for a drink. I suggested Eco The Basement bar, not far from her place, which always had live world music on Fridays. That night a Caribbean band was playing a conscious and special lyrics Reggae. Those guys filled  the air with such an energetic bitting that it was impossible to leave in the middle of their performance, it was contagious! But all have to finish and when it was done, at around eleven, we left. I accompanied Eco to her place, I promised her to call again another day and I left.

Since it was not so late I decided to walk again back to my flat. The company I was working for had settle a leasing agreement for an apartment in Rockwall Crescent at Potts Point. The voices regarding late walks were always mentioning to avoid the Botanical Garden area at night. Because better illumination and police surveillance everybody advised that it would better  to crosse the Hyde Park instead, which I did to reach William Street that would take me to Kings Cross area and then Potts Point.

I was walking lost in my thoughts. Despite being one month into Spring it was rather chilly that night. I was wearing a jacket with pockets at the chest level where I had my hands hanging there, the left holding my mobile phone while the right was holding my wallet. All inadvertently. More or less half way William Street, where the street starts to get a considerable upper gradient, around Forbes Street intersection, I noticed four young people, three boys and one girl, walking down in straight line across, leaving  no space to negotiate when we would cross. They seem to walk like a wall but I remember to think that when we would get close they would of course simply split and I would make my way through. I was wrong and because I was wrong and naif, in a blink of an eye I was on the ground. Also because I was walking with my hands in the upper pockets of my jacket I had no time with such a coward behaviour to protect myself so I landed on the concrete slabs with my bottom and elbows. Prior to it, when I approached them I decided to stay in the middle of the pedestrians walkway hopping they would naturally split and let me pass without annoyance. They actually did slightly split, two to each side, but with an amazing synchronisation, one in each side of me, hit hardly my shoulders which took me indefensibly to the ground.

In one second I thought they were drunk and just did it to challenge their bravery at that time of the night, but the second  after I realised one of them was pushing his fist against my throat while the other was trying to take my hands out of my pockets and shouting; give me your damn wallet, mother fucker!  I realised this was a serious thing not knowing if they were drunk or this was a stunt they were used to do while I didn’t have any plans!

At that time I was reading the Bloodline of the Holy Grail of Lawrence Gardner where he mentioned the phenomena about the energy humans are capable to catalyse in stressed or dangerous situations. It seems God gave me that energy I was looking for and never thought it was possible. Either I would let them steal my wallet and the company’s mobile phone, get smashed on the ground or I would do something right there without hesitation. This takes an eternity to describe but it took less than 10 seconds to think. I had my elbows glued to the ground while making all efforts to keep my hands on both pockets grabbing my belongings. I saw a gap between the two men and I thought that gap could be my freedom if I could rise and spring myself in between. The faster I thought, the faster I did it. I used my elbows to push my body upper and like a feline I was out of that circle without knowing how I did it*. The fact was that, to their surprise, I did it!

That energy, coming from nowhere, was not over yet. Now I made sure I saw them all in front of me and  surprisingly shouted; I know I can’t take all of you together but one-to-one I can. Come, be the first yourself mother fucker! while the girl was shouting to them; leave him alone guys, let’s move before the cops arrive! Obviously I was bluffing!!! A face-to-face fight has never been something I wished and was not longing for either tonight. But the built-in energy was telling me to scare them, the best defence is the attack, go on! But, at the same time, a silent voice was telling not to push my chances to far… as a matter of fact an ambulance was speeding down from Kings Cross and they decide to leave having one of them saying; we will meet again, emigrant!

You have to believe I was almost peeing on my pants! That bravery of mine was fake, I never like to fight and I was frightened. But the voice and the energy pushed me to do so. There are no coincidences, and even the ambulance at that precise moment was not a coincidence. It was meant to be like that.

After crossing Kings Cross I felt a kind of sweat in my arms. My elbows were hurting me, I felt pain and discomfort but nothing I could not endure. When I moved both hands to touch my elbows and hold them tightly I felt a slight warm viscous wet running through my fingers. My coat was teared, the shirt too and my elbows were soaked in blood. I decided to walk back to a pharmacy that I just saw open in Macleay Street in front of the Al-Alamein Memorial Fountain.

Good-night, the pharmacist on duty greeted me, what can I do for you mate? I showed him my elbows and instantly he looked suspicious on me. I think is better to call a taxi to take you to the hospital mate! No, thanks, please give me some Betadine solution, some pads, Hirudoid cream and two elastic strech. I will take care of myself.  Ok, if you wish so mate, he reply, but you should go to the hospital to let them check it. What happened to you anyway mate? I explained to him what I have been through and he offer himself to make a call to the police. I ask him; do you think they will ever find them? He smiled at me, wishing me good luck and asking me to at least return there the day after so his assistant, a nurse, could look at it.

Was only after a deserved shower that I realised how bad my elbows were. I had no bruises, I had really deep cuts!  I rubbed the Betadine all over to disinfect, applied the Hirudoid, put some pads on the top of it and wrapped them with the elastic stretches.

On Monday the company’s nurse had a look and said that the curative I decided was correct and told me to continuous for as long I saw progress on it but she gave me another cream, more effective for open wounds, she mentioned.

My colleagues were joking at my status; yea mate… Friday… near Kings Cross… do you want us to believe in your story… ha, ha, ah… red district… you’re elbows look like something else….ah, ah, ah. One of my students was particularly pinning on it. Saliba (his name), I have been in many places around the world and sometimes times in neighbourhoods considered dangerous and nothing had ever happen to me. In the back of my mind Sydney was the least of my concerns but finally were I least believe something would happen is were I was hit for the first time in my life. From now on I will be cautious of my steps in your town. I just wish this will never happen to you…

He laughed and said, don’t worry mate, it will be all right.

Two weeks later Saliba missed the morning meeting. I inquiry with his colleagues and nobody heard of him. In Australia I got used to that people missed the work, arrived later and take day off without prior notice. So I did not care much though Saliba was a  very punctual and committed person I counted the most. The day after he missed again and when I was about to leave the meeting room to get possible news from the human resources, another nice and kind student, Mikael, walked into the room and told me that Saliba was caring for his wife and would not come to work for at least two weeks. What happened? In five seconds I though about any possible serious medical diagnose but Mikael, that coincidently was Saliba’s neighbour, told me that Saliba did not wanted to call me directly because the embarrssement of the circumstances. His wife, two days before, was gun pointed by robbers while bringing back to the car the grocery shopping she had just done. Scared and in panic she run away and clumsily twisted and broke her ankle while crossing a concrete parking block. Some passerby came to her rescue and called the police but she was in such a state of shock that she could not leave the house for whatsoever reason. She sought assistance from a psychologist and Saliba needed to stay back home.

When three weeks later he came back the first question he asked was; how your elbows are doing Joaquim? His face was pale, serious with no traces of murkiness this time. I did not doubted your story but although we read these things everyday on the newspapers and hear the news, I just never came across with someone that was effectively attacked so we always think that things are exaggerated and have tendency to make jokes out of it… but no more, and I am sorry, truly sorry. Beginning of next year we plan to move to Melbourne where people keep saying is safer and we have family there anyway. All depends how long it will take to sell the house. My wife is adamant on it, the decision is no negotiable, for nothing of our kids life…

* Later, when my elbows were back to normal, I have tried a few times the same prowess at home but I did never succeed. One needs a strong core to rise the body in such circumstances but I had not that, I was never strong in my core.