I was a student back then: shared a house on Kelvin Avenue with three other Europeans and one American. Ah, London, the world was our oyster! We teamed up after a year in dorms, dreaming of greatness, all-knowing and clueless like all students.
Along came Sam, not a student, just an Australian guy we found on Gumtree to stay with us temporarily. He was one of those people you tend to meet in London: a citizen of the world (or at least of the Commonwealth), streetwise, with few possessions and many stories. He pegged beef jerky onto the clothes lines in our house, he had jailbreaked his Xbox – whatever that meant – and he repeatedly pleaded: “I’ll join you for church if you come with me to a strip club.”
Late one night, Sam and I walked home from a bar (no, not that kind of bar) and on the home stretch six youths came out of nowhere and ran toward us. I prepared myself to get mauled, convinced they’d beat the crap out of us. They didn’t. Instead, they surrounded us – three guys circling each of us – and searched our pockets. Was that it? They didn’t want my life, just my old Motorola phone? Good riddance! I felt so emboldened by this realization that I told the guy touching my rear pockets that he seemed to enjoy that an awful lot, to which he responded by holding a knife against my throat: “Are you trying to make fun of me?”
I wasn’t. It just seemed like the proper thing to say; to ease the tension and let my sudden good mood rub off on them.
Sam took a more belligerent approach. Apart from some creative insults – involving the words “mother”, and “your”, and “last night, I” – he also challenged the leader of the pack to a duel, man to man.
“Look, I’m from Australia, mate. Here’s what we do where I come from: you put down your pussy ass knife, and it’s just you and me, like real men.”
I rushed to get between Sam and the knife-wielder, pushing Sam backwards. “They have knives,” I said repeatedly, as if he didn’t know it.
“You little c**t, come on then! Are you a pussy?”, he bellowed at the assailant and half-tried to disentangle himself from my grip.
And then, by the grace of God – or, by the aggression of Sam – the youths took off as quickly as they showed up. “Yeah, you better run”, Sam yelled bravely at them, and then not so bravely ran in the opposite direction, with me on his tail.
Back at the house – some fifty meters from the crime scene – we sat down on the couch.
Sam smiled mischievously. “We just got mugged, mate.”
I left Sam on the couch and went to the bathroom, leaving the toilet door open because what the hell did I care now. I yelled to him over my shoulder: “they held a knife against my throat.”
Two seconds later, half into the compulsory post-urination shake, Sam burst out the front door and ran back onto the street.
I ran after him, hoping not to find him stabbed. To my surprise I saw the muggers stepping out of a late-night corner shop, next to where they attacked us. The following second, a police car rapidly approached me along the high street, sirens wailing. I flung myself into the street and it came to halt right in front of me, when I saw Sam come running – he’d called the police from a phone booth – and we both got into the police car.
“There they are,” we shouted, pointing at the youths who were now trying to outrun the police car. The group scattered, but within twenty seconds we caught up with two of them. The policemen jumped out of the vehicle, ordering us to stay put. Sam and I sat high-fiving in the back seat as the policemen brusquely wrestled the muggers down to the ground and cuffed them. A different police car picked up the delinquents and we were taken back to the house by our uniformed bad-ass action heroes.
The following Monday I was standing in the university canteen leaning leisurely against the wall, crowbarring the subject into conversations.
“Got mugged the other night, innit”, I said, squinting and frowning Clint Eastwoodly, as if these things happen-you-know. “Six of them. If they were armed? Yeah, knives.” I shrugged, took a sip of my coffee, and swiftly changed the subject: “So what have you been up to?”
What happened subsequently – ID parade, wigs in court, the works – were all just a prolonged proverbial pillow talk following the real climax: that moment when I, the inexperienced Swede, had been gloriously mugged. It was like the loss of virginity, only… a lot better. I had stepped into manhood, nay, into Sam-hood, and I’ve cherished the memory dearly ever since.