By Neal Broverman
Originally published on Advocate.com October 10 2013 2:00 AM ET
When most people heard about a group of bikers recently attacking an SUV in Manhattan, dragging the owner out of the vehicle and beating him in front of his wife and 2-year-old, they thought, That’s horrible, or Christ, that must have been frightening. I thought, That almost happened to me.
I escaped being mauled or killed by an angry biker, but not before being struck in the face as my female friend, sitting in the passenger seat, screamed in shock. I don’t often tell this story because it still sends shivers down my spine and, well, it’s emasculating and embarrassing. But we have to accept our circumstances lest they become sources of shame. So, in honor of National Coming Out Day, I'm telling everyone I was slapped across the face by a rampaging biker.
It was the summer of 1997, a carefree season when being attacked by a biker was only the second most violent thing that happened to me — in July, the bank I was working at was robbed and a loaded gun was pointed at my head. Before my confrontation on the road, and after the bank robbery, I was at a drive-in movie with a group of friends, where we promptly got stoned and enjoyed numerous alcoholic beverages. I could make excuses that being part of a violent bank robbery made me turn to drink and drugs, but I was ingesting blunts and Bud Lights before I lived out Dog Day Afternoon, so I can’t. My inebriated state is relevant because it may have been why I got into such damn trouble with a pig on a hog.
After the movie — I want to say it was Spice World — my friend and I were driving home down a country road. There was a motorcycle with a man in a leather jacket driving in front of us, but I took little notice, possibly because of the animated conversation in the car or my impairment (kids, don’t drink and drug and do anything involving movement). I may have been following too closely for the biker’s liking, but I honestly can’t say now with any certainty if I was driving too aggressively. My friend didn’t notice anything amiss about my conduct, but again, she was preoccupied.
Regardless, the biker began driving really slow, purposely putzing in front of us but not making any hand gestures or even turning around. As we approached an abandoned lot (I’m serious), he waved us to the right, and, dumb as we were, my friend and I thought he needed our assistance. Yes, a leather-clad biker needs help from two teenagers in a Hyundai Sonata. So I threw the Sonata into park and he stopped his hulking bike 30 feet from us. I rolled down my window as he walked toward us — my friend and I still thinking of ourselves as good Samaritans — and as I said, “Can we hel—” he belted me across the face with his gloved hand.
Yes, it’s still strange that he didn’t punch me but gave me an open-faced slap like Erica Kane or Alexis Carrington. I tend to think the slap would have been the assault appetizer in my beat-ass buffet — but we didn’t get to the next course.
The one smart thing I did was not shut off the car, so I slammed it in reverse and headed for the street. The one problem: Traffic was suddenly zooming in both directions and I couldn’t pull out of the lot. That’s when this giant man, scruffy, probably in his 40s, started walking — yes, walking — to the Sonata, like he was Jason Voorhies unmasked. That’s when my friend, whose name I’ll spare thanks to all the druggy details, started screaming.
“Go, go, go!,” she shrieked.
“No one will fucking let me out!”
“Oh, my God, he’s almost here!”
I saw an opening and gunned it like Steve McQueen. We escaped, barely, but didn’t talk excitedly about the fun adventure we just experienced. Too scary. That guy, who didn’t say a word through the whole encounter, was going to do some damage. His bloodlust was so thick, we smelled it when he penetrated the car with his arm. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who never backs down from a fight, but I’m not delusional; if I had tried to defend myself, I probably would have been killed. Still, being assaulted like that still makes me feel weak and scared and ashamed, and to tell people the dirty details feels like being assaulted again.
It’s funny; I’ll tell the bank robbery story to anyone I meet (ask anyone I’ve met) and my life was just as threatened. The two robbers cocked their gun before jumping over our bank counter — I was a teller working during college break — and verbally threatened our lives. They held their gun against the backs of bank employees (not mine) and fired the gun in the middle of the two-minute melee (it hit a counter). So, yes, the robbery was so horrifying I can recount every detail. But it doesn’t jar me the same way the slap did. Maybe it’s because the robbers wanted money, not necessarily to hurt us, and this biker clearly wanted to wreck me. He was so intent on inflicting hurt that I was denied any opportunity to defend myself — to do so would have put the lives of my friend and I in serious jeopardy. Being assaulted, even when it’s a slap across the face, is terrifying and potentially scarring. For everyone who’s ever been punched, slapped, kicked, or sexually assaulted, it’s never OK, even if it might make a funny story at a cocktail party.
NEAL BROVERMAN is a columnist for The Advocate and the editor in chief of Out Traveler. Follow him on Twitter @nbroverman.