What happens when someone tries to kill you?

WARNING: This story is an account of a real and violent situation that happened to me several years ago. It is discomforting, though some people may find it especially difficult to cope with.

I was living in Melbourne in the year 2000 and I was working for the Melbourne office of a National Internet Company. Mostly as a UX Architect and Graphic Designer, though coding websites as well.

I would jump on the tram running along Dandenong Road. This would then turn into St Kilda Road and head into the city to my Bourke Street Office. After work, I would come back the same way.

I loved the ride and it was an exciting time. Melbourne is a great city and I was feeling the possibilities.

At the time I was living in the top half of a house made into a separate property. Two brothers, who lived downstairs, had basically converted their parents’ home. I had been living there for about four months. One of the brothers was an accountant and the other a builder. Really great guys and it was a great place to live.

During those four months the routine was to go to work, face those challenging opportunities, come home and enjoy the evening. Sometimes I would go out and see friends, though this was during the many years that I did not play an instrument and perform. I was an office guy.

I really enjoyed my work and sometimes I would work back to get something done, or just because I enjoyed experimenting or learning new skills. Around the four month mark, I was coming home from work on the tram. I was feeling alright, another day down and life was good.

Enter the Monster

On this night the tram wasn’t particularly full, maybe ten or twelve people. The driver was up front with a weird lattice work door to protect him while driving. Thinking back, it reminded me of the front screen door of my Grandmother’s house. It had probably been repurposed from some supplier of such doors.

These had come into effect in the previous six months to that tram ride. On the face of it, that might indicate the number of ‘incidents’ involving drivers and passengers had been increasing.

The people were a typical mixture of Melburnians on their way to wherever, and at 7:30pm it was already dark and the street lights were on. The passengers included a couple, a senior lady and a few singletons in various seats.

Two seat rows in front of me was a guy who was facing me towards the back of the tram, though not looking in my direction. He looked to be in his twenties, not completely disheveled though, just like a normal ‘extra’ casual guy. His eyes oddly were completely moist, not tears though watery and very, very red rimmed and puffy. He was twitchy and agitated and moved strangely every so often.

That is usually the moment where your lizard brain kicks in and resolves to keep a watchful eye, (without making eye contact), however the situation should turn out. On a tram you usually hope to just get to your stop and remove yourself from the environment.

I had about four stops to go. In that case, odds were pretty good that this was nothing and I would be at home, catching a show on TV in about twenty minutes.

Unfortunately the right mix of ingredients for trouble were on that tram. Spilling in from mixed sources of personal choice and the Melbourne social climate at the time.

A couple of people got off at the next two stops and when the second person got off, the guy muttered something to their back. It wasn’t entirely clear what was said, though it definitely contained menace and anger.

At the third stop, a young guy was waiting at the centre door to get off. The tram stopped, the doors opened and as he went down the steps, the agitated guy got up from his seat and took a swing at his back.

The young guy had headphones on, so he didn’t even notice. He just kept walking away, oblivious to the commotion going on behind his back.

As the agitated guy took his swing he had said, “What makes you think you’re better than us?” The guy who had just got off, was of Asian descent. “Great.”, I thought at the time, “He’s also racist.”

The agitated guy had turned away from the door and an unfortunate thing then happened. I was looking in that general direction and his red eyes made contact with mine. He had noticed me. He went and sat down then, where he kept his eyes on me, the whole time.

One more stop. Halfway to it, I got up and went to the centre exit doors. The guy got up and stood next to me, about a half metre away, saying nothing, just glaring.

I decided to move forward to where the driver was and get out the front door. I figured if anything went down, the driver would radio it in. I just knew I had a stop coming up and I was going to leave this situation behind. It was so unusual, that really thinking about it now, I was amazed it was even happening.

The weirdo followed me, pulling the same trick standing close and glaring at me. His hatred was written across his face. I had never seen him before in my life. I wondered then, if I was going to be in a fight.

My stop came up. The front door opened and I got off the tram. The door closed and the tram started to pull away. Excellent, issue sorted for me. The driver, if he was smart, would call the cops (from behind his screen) and that would get sorted.

The tram in that part of Dandenong road ran down the middle of a very wide nature strip (it probably still does), more than twenty metres, either side of the tram. Either side is then the road, going in alternate directions. I lived on the door side so I started heading directly towards my home.

I got across the grass, dodged the moderate traffic to cross over and then was making my way to the front door.

What happens when someone tries to kill you?

Whack! Something hits me on the back of the head. I lose balance and fall to my knees. I’m reeling from the blow, though I stay conscious. I’m dizzy.Another blow hits my shoulders and I do the best I can to get up, if only to get an idea on what’s happening.

I get up and miss another blow aimed at my front as I stagger backwards in the direction of the house.

It was the guy from the tram. The very same guy I had just seen, taken away by that vehicle. That guy was in my front garden and he had some bit of branch that he was using. Probably something picked up that had fallen, from the trees that lined the strip.

I kept moving backwards, out of sorts and we ended up on the front porch. The guy was still trying to connect another blow. It didn’t really work out for him and he decided on a more personal approach and came at me punching and kicking.

I had a disadvantage at that moment. I wasn’t completely crazy. I had wanted to rationalise the fight. It was also shocking, though I never have been able to put the exact feeling into words.

He then babbled some rubbish that I couldn’t really get hold of, except, “You’re leaving now.”

He simply wanted to kill me. His wet red rimmed eyes fixated on the task at hand and nothing else.

Once I had realised that, I had gone into fight back mode. I landed some blows, though it’s not like the movies. Most fights are completely stupid.

Even then I was solid and healthy. I did manage to get him off balance and slam him into the stone column of the porch. It didn’t phase him and he just bounced right off. Whatever gear he was on it could have had some opioids in there. Who knows, he just kept coming. If he had had a knife, I would be dead now.

I don’t know how long it went on. It could have been only ten minutes. He was constantly punching, kicking and trying to rip at me. One of his kicks hit me in the balls and I just had to keep upright through the pain. There was no rule book.

My advantage. He didn’t have any weapons, he was completely mad and it was just an animal not a man. Still the first hit had taken me down a rung and I was rationalising again. What’s next?

….and then rationalising paid off.

I reached my right arm out and pushed the doorbell to the downstairs of the house where the two brothers were.

In a few moments the door opened and David with his brother Greg came out onto the porch. They didn’t even get to say anything, as they took in the fight scene.

Confronted by three men, not one; the guy ran back to the gate and started babbling all sorts of stuff. It was strange stuff, too awful to print here and just plain crazy.

Greg went inside to call the police. David yelled to the guy who was still hovering on the other side of the front fence, “We’ve called the cops mate.”

David and Greg took me inside into their place, cups of tea were made and they made sure I was OK. I really should have probably gone to the hospital just in case, though it never occurred to me to do so back then.

The police arrived and took my statement. We pointed to the direction the guy had run off in. I went up to my apartment, didn’t sleep and took the next few days off work. The branch of the company only had me and two other people in it, so after a while I just had to get on with it.

Why do I think it happened?

This is just speculation bordering on opinion, though around the time, the Victorian Government started closing what were deemed ‘Mental’ institutions. I think the policy assumed that community and charity organisations would pick up the work of these now closed institutions. Actually I don’t know at all what they thought. Still seems a bit of a coincidence.

About a year after this incident, I was out on the St Vinnies Soup Van, delivering soup and food to boarding houses, drug rehabs and the like. A guy came to the door with a carving knife. The young girl who was doing the rounds with me, never came back to the van.

Another time on the soup van, a guy came to the door with stitches in his neck. He’d tried to cut his throat. Fortunately a failed attempt.

About 18 years after my incident I was on holiday in Melbourne on a tram, coming back from watching a jazz gig with my girlfriend of the time.

A guy was throwing cigarette butts at my girlfriend and muttering. He had a similar aspect to the guy who tried to kill me.

Older, angrier and maybe even stupider, I got up, grabbed his arm, pulled him to his feet, dinged the ringer and got him off the tram next stop. Not doing it again man.

There have been many other incidents in the news coming from Melbourne. Very recent and famous ones. Please draw your own conclusions.

What happened in my case?

My nutter must have hassled out the driver. The driver, rather than deal with it himself, (despite his cage) he must have let the guy off just a few moments after me. “Thanks mate, let me know if I can ever do you a favour.”

You know, it didn’t affect my ability to live my life. I was hurt, though that faded pretty quickly. It was shocking, though in a ‘wasn’t that a waste of a life’, rather than evil. It was stupid and pointless and that is confronting, though you can get past it. In my opinion, I feel the system did something dumb and that dumb spilled over.

What do I think about it now?

The first blow could have been worse or killed me. The guy could have had a worse weapon. Not likely a gun in this country, though a knife wouldn’t have been out of the question.

The adrenaline calms down and you shake for a bit. There was some depression and aftershocks that year. Though I got over it.

I decided to do something for a while, jumping on the St Vinnies soup van to face the reality of it. I grew an extra set of eyes in the back of my head. I learned how to yell and get in first.

I’m OK. Other people have not been.

That’s what happens when someone tries to kill you.



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Virgil Reality

Virgil Reality

Data and Analytics Professional, Media Strategist and Creative, Customer Experience Architect and Developer, Secret Trumpeter