The Time I Saw My Whole Life Flash Before My Eyes

I was attacked on the street in London when I was 21 years old. It was the first time I had ever been to London, and it was at the beginning of my adventure backpacking across the European continent. After 10 days in London, it was my last night, and I’d met up with some friends I knew from home to drink at their Brick Lane apartment.

I got drunk and the boys got high (I was still righteous about recreational drug use) and we decided to head out to a bar, as our end of Brick Lane (at Whitechapel Road) was all but a ghost town even though the clock hadn’t yet struck 12. So we went on the kind of inebriated mission that is so commonplace in my life and, I’m sure, in the lives of many twentysomethings.

We weren’t looking for trouble. We weren’t in a “dangerous” part of town (and we didn’t yet know that such a concept is irrelevant in London). We weren’t being loud, raucous or disrespectful. We were simply walking to Bethnal Green Road as friends do, laughing and smoking cigarettes and minding our own business. Once we’d reached the end of the road without finding an enticing bar, we decided we’d been having more than enough fun at the apartment, so we’d make a quick stop at the offie and head back to the apartment.

The walk back was just as innocuous as the walk there, except at three-quarters of the way there, a large group of men appeared on the opposite side of the road. Again, I didn’t think much of it—I was with 4 boys, all of whom were tall and broad. I didn’t think of myself as a target. Unfortunately, I learned the misnomer of context very abruptly–for the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by people in a well-lit, public place, and yet never more afraid for my safety.

As we approached the men it became clear they were all inebriated too. They were yelling and jostling into each other, and they seemed mostly to be congregated around one particularly drunk man who had his shirt off and was dancing provocatively. We were still on the opposite side of the road, and when we came parallel to the men, they noticed us and began yelling. Instinctively, we stopped, but only momentarily.

When I realized the shirtless man was running towards me I started backing away, but his bulbous, flapping belly masked his speed and strength well. Before I could get out of the way he shoved me violently down with two hands against my chest. As I fell, two things happened—the wind was knocked entirely out of me and the back of my head hit the concrete with a loud crack. For a second, everyone went silent, even the group of chanting men who had now surrounded us.

A moment later the slow motion reaction to my fall was snapped back into double speed and the shirtless man was on top of me, nuzzling his sweaty face into my neck and pounding his (still clothed, thankfully) pelvis into mine while the other men cheered him on. All I could think about was my family, and I ceased to be part of a moment that was now happening to me as opposed to with me.

I don’t know what happened next. I was told that one of my male friends had taken a running kick at my attacker’s ribs to get him off me, which made the crowd more aggressive. The next thing I recall is being pulled weightlessly up by the arms and someone screaming, “Run!” I know I had a boy gripping each of my hands. I know that they were both so much taller and faster than me that as we ran my feet felt as though they were barely touching the ground. I know we were being chased.

We made it back to the apartment safely, as the men chasing us had failed both to form a cohesive unit in action and seemed to lose interest when it became clear we were outrunning them. Once inside, I burst into tears. I knew my head should hurt but I couldn’t feel it. Two of the boys were still by my side, each still holding a hand, but I couldn’t feel that either. I couldn’t feel anything except wetness on my cheeks. TC mark

image – Matt from London


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  • Michael O

    That just sucks…

  • pesto

    damn. this is intense. would’ve liked to have read your reflection on the incident, though.


    So scary! I would never think that could happen with guys all around you, either. People are crazy. :(

  • rose georgia

    i might be wrong, but it seems like that was perhaps very difficult to write about and relive. well done for managing it, not over-dramatising, and showing that sometimes there are situations that will turn nasty no matter the context.

    thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Though I wish you wrote more thoughts after they recovered you from that incident. I felt all warm and fuzzy from the common thought of every girl that a group of guys were there for your rescue and comfort.  What a way to wrap up an adventure in London.    

  • courtney

    thank you so much for sharing this, kat. so brave. thank god you weren’t alone.

  • Asdf

    First, I’m glad you made it through the ordeal. Second, this was a fantastic piece. I’m sure it was difficult to write, but we are the lucky ones for having been able to read it. Thank you.


    just makes me more scared and paranoid.. makes me just want to stay inside somewhere chill.. ugh

  • Frida

    One of your best pieces.
    Really highlights the vulnerability you felt.
    Scary for a girl to think of something like this happening though.
    I’m glad you were okay and you had such protective guy friends there!

  • Frida

    One of your best pieces.
    Really highlights the vulnerability you felt.
    Scary for a girl to think of something like this happening though.
    I’m glad you were okay and you had such protective guy friends there!

  • Aja

    You are lucky to have such good friends.  I am lucky to have never experienced something like this.

  • guest

    You slept on the street in Paris? Are you insane??

  • CarmenOhio

    Wow, as a guy, I sometimes fail to fully comprehend the dangers of being a girl in the streets late at night.  I feel bad that jerks like those guys make it scary to do something as simple as walk around.  However, I am extremely glad to have read that you had some guys with you.  I don’t even want to think of how badly that situation could have gotten had they not been there. 

  • NoSexCity

    The next two sentences have nothing to do with each other… 
    I think this could have used another read-through and further editing. 
    But I’m glad you (and your friends) are okay – crazy drunk bullies suck.

  • TO

    This was really good. I wish more of your pieces were.

  • Lacy

    even though i liked the piece as a whole, i feel like there really wasn’t a concrete ending to it, or a decent conclusion in general. i agree; a reaction would have been nice.
    but nice writing anyway.

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