Sometimes, knocking someone to the floor might be the kindest thing you can do to them

The following took place some years ago, when I was working in a Youth Club:

The Youth Club was a hang out for some pretty rough kids. They were supposed to be aged 14 to 18, but quite a lot of them were a lot older than that. All but one were immigrants, or were sons of immigrants, and had to deal with a lot of problems on that account on a daily basis. So they were not really your regular easy-going, run of the mill, 'zits are my greatest problem'-teenagers (although 'easy-going teenager' probably is a contradiction in terms...)

There were lots of fights, and I must say that breaking up a fight between four agitated young men when you're a 160cm tall (or small) woman is not as easy as it may sound. Persistency helped. Sometimes. Sometimes they'd slug away at each other over my head - which could be rather disconcerting.

Most of the boys were very sweet, though. Only a small handful of them were really posing problems. They were in and out of prison, usually for violence, robbery, rape and suchlike. They would come by as soon as they got out of jail, and tell of their adventures. And I swear, it was like listening to campfire stories. I'd tell them how stupid they really were, doing what they did, and they'd hang their heads and nod - and be back in trouble within a week (but those kids' stories may be for another writeup, one day).

One young man in particular, Mehmet, was really taxing my patience. He was not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and he'd do just about anything to get attention. He was very violent, had absolutely no respect for us, the paedagogues, and did pretty much what he wanted, scaring most of the other 'bad boys' with his complete disregard for everything.

One evening I was alone with a group of young men in the 'Café', the room where the pool table stood, and where there were several small tables, where we sat and talked or played cards and Backgammon. Mehmet was there too, sitting next to me, fresh out of prison, bragging about all the women he had had, and how he had slapped them around and ditched them. I was smiling and shaking my head, but the other boys at the table was were cheering him on.

"It's true", he said. "All the bitches want me so bad."

"Yeah, sure, Mehmet", I said. "'Cause you're Allah's gift to the women, right?"

That's where he jumped on top of my lap, and grabbed one of my breasts. "Heh, I could have you, if I wanted!"

I reacted the only way I could. I pushed him off of me, and then I sent him tumbling with the most beautiful, singing, ringing, backhand I have ever delivered. The silence that ensued was palpable.

Mehmet sat on the floor for a couple of seconds, tangled in a chair. Then he shook his head, got up and brushed himself off. I straightened up and put on my best menacing look. I had only one thought in my head: I would never get any of my colleagues here, fast enough! And none of the other boys would dare do anything to help.

"Never. Ever. Do. That." I said levelly, and looked him square in the eye. Two seconds passed, before he lowered his gaze.

"Sorry..." he said, and gave me a bow. And then he left, quietly.

In the dead silence following his departure I picked up my chair and sat down again. "So... I believe it was your turn, Davoud..." I said, and pointed to the Backgammon board, managing to hide my shaking hands. Nothing more was said.


It would be nice to be able to say, that Mehmet was a transformed young man, the next time I saw him. It would also be a lie. But he would listen to me, if I told him to stop with whatever idiotic stunt he was about to perform, and he didn't threaten the staff - as much. He came to me and asked for help when he could not read the paperwork his lawyers sent him, and he told me a lot about his life - which was not an easy one, let me tell you. He didn't really mend his ways, but he seemed somehow more relaxed. And he did never, ever touch me again.

Years later I saw him on a train station, again fresh out of prison (two years for assault and rape!) He came running, and literally picked me up and hugged me. We talked a little, and he told me his life was a terrible mess.

"I think my best year was after you knocked me to the floor", he said when we parted. "You were the only person who weren't scared of me! It was so nice..."

I don't think I have ever felt so bad and so good, all at the same time. I never saw him again...

Of course I had to discuss the incident with my colleagues, right after it happened, and they agreed that I had done the only right thing. And we all agreed I was a very lucky person...!

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