A guy tried to stab me last week and I haven’t been able to sleep properly since.
It’s not that I’m scared, I’ve actually been expecting it since I invested in our little pocket of Mordor five years ago. What keeps me up at night are the myriad options I could’ve chosen, should’ve chosen, in this particular Choose Your Own Adventure story.
L’esprit de l’escalier is a French term that describes the predicament of thinking of the perfect retort too late.
This name for the phenomenon comes from French philosopher Denis Diderot’s description of such a situation in his Paradoxe sur le comédien, where during a dinner a remark left him speechless, because, he explains, “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again when he reaches the bottom of the stairs.”
In my case, “the bottom of the stairs” has been every single night since that guy thrust the business end of a screwdriver into my arm.
It was a drizzly Friday night and before we could go to our friend’s place for dinner I had to get some groceries. I was walking back from the shop with a 12-pack of beers in one hand and a tray of cupcakes in the other when I noticed a minibus-taxi parked on the yellow line in front of my house.
Now if like me you’ve crawled into a bank and begged them for a bond, promising that you’ll pay back double, then you’ll know that owning a house changes you. You don’t even want to ring my bell to give me the latest Watchtower let alone park a minibus-taxi on the yellow line in front of my garage.
After I’d installed an alarm and fitted an electric fence and made a junkyard dog our pet, I had council paint a yellow line (This City Works For You!) on the opposite side of the road from my garage. This is because I can’t get into my garage when there’s a car parked there.
Instead of writing “No Parking” across the windshield using a cake of surf wax I was able to confront the driver who was sitting in the driver’s seat. Sure he looked like the lead from the Pappa Wag Vir Jou ad, all wiry methamphetamine addled body and face tattoos, but like I said, becoming a homeowner changes you. The driver said he’d just be a minute. I told him that that was no good because I was actually about to leave and if he didn’t move right away then I’d be forced to do damage to his vehicle when reversing out of my garage.
He flicked his cigarette at my garage door, disengaged the handbrake and rolled away, the engine spluttering to life further down the street.
In my peripheral vision I saw a lighter spark, and as I turned a head ducked down in the passenger seat of a car parked just up the road. I put my beers and my cupcakes down and walked towards it. A young man in a Manchester United tracksuit jumped out.
I should’ve immediately gone into one of the Bas Rutten routines that I like to watch on YouTube before going back home to ‘Slunden for December holidays. Instead I put on that indignant white-guy voice that Dave Chappelle does and asked the thief what business he had breaking into a vehicle that obviously wasn’t his. With such a weak opening move the guy parried back telling me to mind my own business.
So I grabbed him by his top so tightly that the zipper left a mark on the back of my left fist.
An overhand right would’ve immobilized him. I eat red-meat and drink a litre of full-cream milk everyday. He is the product of poverty, malnourished, the tik draining his body of calcium. If I dislodged one of his teeth he wouldn’t have had the medical cover to fix this, and would have to live the rest of his life missing a tooth. If with one punch you can guarantee repercussions for someone years down the line, then you’ve done your job well.
Better yet would’ve been to bring a boot down hard on his knee, hyperextending it. Then, kneeling down over him, grab hold of his oesophagus, squeezing until thumb and forefinger met. After he’d passed out I could drag him to my garage and lay him out on the workbench. There I could’ve either extracted another tooth with the claw of a hammer or pruned his thumbs with a pair of secateurs.
No, better to wait, plenty of time for the old ultra-violence, and we don’t want him bleeding in the garage anyway… Rather tie him up with electrical tape, throw him in the back of the bakkie and drive up the West Coast. Once there I could get him to dig a hole, bury him up to his neck and pour a tin of syrup over his head.
And there’s me getting carried away again…
I actually didn’t do anything, and using this to his advantage the thief broke free from my grip by shouting “Jy, is jy jus?!” while bringing a screwdriver down onto my forearm. Fortunately I was wearing my denim jacket so it didn’t even break the skin.
Still, now when I lie in bed at night there’s a new scenario to torture myself with. Just another moment to add to all those other moments where I should’ve kissed the girl, taken that bet, shot instead of passed, or said what I only thought of saying when I was standing at the bottom of the stairs.