What would you do?

Last night, as I was walking home from the train, I heard two people yelling at each other. As I crossed the street, I saw a man and a woman embroiled in a physical altercation– he had her hair in his hand and was pulling while she begged him to let go. They both were screaming at each other. I have never seen actual domestic abuse before, and I found myself really intensely affected. I considered what I should do, because I knew that it was wrong. I kept walking, afraid to enter the altercation. I know it was the smartest thing I could have done, but I really wanted to do something, anything. I saw other people seeing it too, but no one did anything. I walked slowly till I got to my building, still listening to the fight happen behind me. At some point, I heard a punch or some sort of contact, and the woman screamed “my leg!” I can’t tell you how strongly I felt and yet how little I knew I could do. What do you do when you have to stop something but if you got involved you’d get hurt, almost certainly? Call the cops, I realized later, but still? When I got inside, I opened my window and continued to listen. I don’t know why… but maybe it was just that I wanted to make sure nothing worse happened? I don’t know. At some point, the couple crossed the street, the woman limping, and got into a car. It was kind of awful to see that kind of violence so close.

What would you do?

“The only thing worth grieving over, she said, was that sometimes there was more beauty in this life than the world could bear.”
— Colum McCann


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