A powerful misanthropy came over me last week, and I wanted to do justice. It came over me in the street. I was walking up Higgins Avenue toward the Pie Hole, where I might nervously eat pizza before the comedy show. A drunk man leaned in the doorway of an empty storefront. I passed him at the same time a woman in business casual negotiated the space between us.
“Hey,” he said to her, “can I ask you a question?”
“Nope,” she said and kept walking.
“Well I already did, so ha ha, bitch!” he shouted after her.
I turned and told him not to fuck with women on the street. I did so loudly, in the voice I use to command strange dogs. I walked toward him in a game fashion. As soon as he started to speak, I repeated myself.
“Don’t fuck with women on the street,” I said. We were close now. He stepped back and said all right, all right. I turned and walked away, feeling tall and jumpy.
“Jesus,” he said, “call the cops or something.”
I turned and walked back to him, swiftly. He put his palms up and shrank into the doorway.
“Don’t hit me,” he said.
Reader, I realized what a heel I am. I had been feeling pretty good to that point, expressing my values through bystander intervention and all. I had never thought to hit him. I only thought, I realized, to correct him publicly, before my god and that woman. I wanted to be good: the kind of good that bosses up on a drunk. Today is Friday, and it’s a fine line between bullying and justice done. Won’t you stand athwart it with me?