Growing up, I had a friend that lived “a few houses away” and by that I mean like half a mile or so. His family ended up moving away after a few years before moving back to town while we were still in school except when they moved back to town, they moved into town and not back out in the country near where I still lived. We went to different schools and could no longer hop on our bikes to pedal over to each other’s houses but we stayed in contact and continued to hang out from time to time. Sometimes he would come stay at our house and others I would go stay at their apartment in town.
As it turned out, we had shared friends. His time at the new school had introduced him to some people before they transferred out to my school. Then, one weekend, a plan was concocted that had me and my new friends going to stay at my old friend’s apartment.
We spent a majority of the evening playing video games, watching movies, and exploring the apartment complex. And as the hours passed from early evening to late night, we decided to take our excursions to a new level. Our friend’s mom was asleep so the four of us snuck out of the apartment and down the road. We walked along the dimly lit residential roads in an easterly direction.
It was late at night. There were hardly any cars on the road. All the businesses were closed on the main streets. Houses were locked up tight while the residents slept inside. We walked along the road because the narrow roads lined with houses didn’t have a sidewalk.
We walked a good mile, maybe more, in the moonlight before deciding that we had gone far enough and needed to start making our way back to the apartment. We opted to take a different path back though, choosing to walk on the main road that did have a sidewalk. We crossed from the North side of the road over to the South side where the sidewalk was.
We started our return trip to the apartment. As we made our way back in the westerly direction toward our destination, we heard voices coming from the other side of the road. We stopped and turned to look as it sounded like the voices were arguing.
There, parked in a parking lot of a closed business, was a car with a man and woman inside. Their voices were loud and they were arguing though I can’t remember the specifics of their fight. The man was at the driver’s side of the car and the woman in the passenger’s seat. The car doors were open and their voices were loud.
We stood, frozen in place, on the opposite side of the street while we processed what was going on across from us. At one point, the man grew agitated and exited the vehicle. The woman made an attempt to get out of the car but the man stopped her. He grabbed her purse and threw on the roof of the car, spilling its contents all over the car and the ground around it. This seemed to anger the man more who started screaming obscenities at his passenger.
We continued to watch as things escalated between the two. The woman was not happy at having her purse snatched away from her and its contents carelessly and thoughtlessly scattered about. She exited the vehicle and began berating her companion for his actions. This pushed things to the next level and we watched as what had been essentially a screaming match between the pair turn into a full on beating of the woman. The man shoved her down before bending over. They were largely obscured from our view at this point being behind the car that separated them from us, and across the road from us in the middle of the night, but there were the unmistakable motions of violence that left us all relatively convinced that the he was beating the hell of that woman.
Young and afraid, none of us dared say anything to bring attention to ourselves. The man was clearly angry and open to violence. If we said or did anything to make our presence known then there was a very real fear that he would come for us. At that age, none of us were prepared to defend ourselves against an angry, possibly drunk, adult full of rage. Instead, we fled. We walked briskly but quietly away from the scene and back to my friend’s apartment.
There was never any thought of calling 9-1-1 or waking up his mother to tell her what we had seen. Anything other than our silence meant that our unauthorized expedition across town would become public knowledge and that meant that all four of us would likely get into significant trouble by our respective parents and that we would likely never be able to hang out together again. Our reasoning was that whatever happened to that couple had already happened and by the time we reported it that likely nothing would come from it. Why get ourselves in trouble with such low odds of being able to offer that woman any help after the fact. In hindsight it was more cowardice than anything but that was the decision we made in our youth so don’t begrudge me that now.
Since that night, luckily, I’ve never witnessed anything else along those lines but it was something that has stuck with me and will likely stick with until my end of days. I don’t know if my friends from that night still remember that evening or think back on it like I do. I remember the weekend for the fun and friendship that we all shared but also for the terror we shared on the side of the road in the dark of night where we saw something we shouldn’t have but failed to take any action to protect those in danger.