When you are friends with me, you can be sure of two things: I will always have your back and it might be weird being out and about with me since I am not turning my back on others who might need my help as well, even if they don´t know they do. Yeah, you never know what will happen in my company…
During my high school years, on my way back home from a concert (I don´t even remember which one it was), I witnessed a kind of odd scenario between a severely high guy, a young mother who seemed intoxicated and their/her toddler who was clearly hungry and tired. Instead of comforting him they mocked him, slapped him in the face and laughed about it. It was close to a main subway station in Vienna, many onlookers immediately looked away or even went away pretending they didn´t witness anything. Not me, of course. I immediately approached them asking them to stop slapping the baby and offering an unopened bottle of orange juice to the little boy who gladly accepted while guzzling down… While I was taking care of their baby, the mother quickly pointed out how fat and disgusting I am while her boyfriend told her to stop which prompted her to accuse him of wanting to hit on me. They started yelling, a cop came by and offered his help and when I told him about the baby and he decided to take care of it while I cleaned the very dirty face of said baby boy, out of nowhere the woman hit me in the face. Hard. To this day I am wondering what happened to the boy afterwards…
What puzzled me was that after the incident, which was clearly marked on my face, people rolled their eyes on me offering their two cents without being asked. And it always resulted in the same thing: That it was my fault and wouldn´t have happened if I just stayed out of it. Like that is an universal answer: To stay out of it!
Part of me can see where they are coming from, but I will never ever be one of the onlookers who just turned away. I am not that kind of human.
Fast forward to college, I had a friend who was known for drinking too much or rather for the fact that she wouldn´t tolerate more than one drink. Let´s call her Laura*. I was never a party animal and if I decided to join my friends to go to a club or party, I never had more than one or two drinks and sometimes even none. I didn´t have to have alcohol to have fun and to this day, don´t have to for that purpose. With Laura though, it was wasn´t as easy. She always drank and at a certain level it was even harder to look after her because she got very clingy, called every guy she danced with her new boyfriend and didn´t remember any of it the very next day. While others made fun of it, I tried to talk some sense into her but failed every time. She always said it´s called having fun and I should try it some time…
In the end, she always thanked me the very next day for having her back and looking after her. It was just too easy to take advantage of her in her fun party animal state and she knew that. One day, my class mates went out to celebrate someone´s birthday, but I had a nasty cold and didn´t feel like joining them for a party night in smoke-filled air (yes, smoking was allowed indoors at that time and it sucked). Still, I made sure to know about Laura´s whereabouts. She wanted to stay in as well, so I felt like there was nothing to worry about.
The next day, my friend Doris* called me to tell me about what happened and how the party went, when she suddenly quipped, “then Laura was gone and we went to that other club…”. I immediately stopped her and asked about Laura who wasn´t even meant to be there. Turned out she decided to join them after all. Turned out there was no one looking after her in my absence.
She wouldn´t answer my calls, so I tracked her down at school the following week and asked her about what happened. She joked about a guy who was a sloppy kisser and how bad her hangover was the next day and brushed it off. Whenever she added more details to her story, the whole plot changed and it didn´t make any sense anymore. I knew something was wrong but couldn´t force her to tell me what happened.
Around two weeks later, we went out again and after just one drink she started sobbing hysterically telling me that she had no memory of that night. Without having to ask, she told me, she only remembered stumbling out of the club waving Jenni* and Doris goodbye. The next morning she woke up in a stranger´s bed what appeared to be fully clothed, but her bra was off and her panties we´re put back on inside out. Her soaked tampon was laying next to her and there was blood everywhere which she blamed on her period. She said, she had severe cramps and abdominal pain and didn´t know what happened. After some rambling noises in the bathroom, she grabbed her shoes and just ran out. She puked two times on the street and just tried to get home as fast as she could where spend two hours showering. She said she wanted to get rid of it all even though she didn´t recall one thing. I will always remember the look on Laura´s face, confiding in me. I let her cry and offered to accompany her to see a doctor and get tested just to make sure everything is okay but she was obviously not in the state of mind to make decisions.
After that night, she never talked to me again. I once tried to approach her and she accused me of making her feel bad and of bringing back all of those emotions because I was so protective of her but the one time she obviously needed me, I bailed on her.
I know this is so wrong of her to say on so many levels, but to this day, part of me kind of feels guilty and thinks she might after all have a point. We don´t know for sure what happened that night, though I think we all – including Laura – have an idea of what might have happened indeed…
Weirdly enough, Jenni and Doris never felt any guilt and always claimed they are not Laura´s babysitters. I knew they were right. Part of me though – to this day – thinks turning my back on someone who might head towards a possibly harmful situation does make me responsible for whatever happens to them. Because in the end, not helping the one in need is helping the possibly harmful one. Don´t you think?
So, why did I even share that story of Laura with you today? It´s because watching a cringe-worthy but powerful video released by the Ontario government called #WHOWILLYOUHELP. It brought me right back to college, to that night with Laura sobbing in my arms, to the guilt and the worries. It shows different fatal scenarios that could be stopped, if only someone took the time and courage to do so.
Please, watch it!
Have you ever experienced something similar? Please share.
*The story is based on true events. All names were changed for obvious reasons.
(Image courtesy of Jeff Rose)