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True Story: Late night conflict becomes learning experience

Last week, a friend of mine got a knife pulled on him.

It was late at night, and this friend of mine, who I’ll call Steve, was walking down the street with his girlfriend. According to Steve, two other guys were walking past them. One of the two said something about Steve’s girlfriend, calling her a (deleted) and a huge (deleted).

(“Evan, we can’t print that in a newspaper,” my editor said.  “Are you stupid?”)

So Steve stopped to respond with some words of his own, and the guy rushed him, tackling him to the ground. Steve punched him in the face. That was when the knife was pulled out. The guy held the knife up to Steve’s face, his body …

It seems like these kinds of things happen all the time. Late at night, anyone on the street can be drunk enough or stupid enough to start something.

I’ve had that kind of experience before. I was walking home one night when a group of five or six guys started yelling at me from behind. I ignored them for a while, but when two of them ran up to me, blocking my path, I had to say something.

“Yo, gimme a cigarette,” one of them said.

I told them I didn’t have any cigarettes — my apologies gentlemen.

“Well then,” he said. “It looks like we’re gonna have to beat your (deleted) (deleted), or maybe we’ll just take you into the alleyway and (deleted) your (deleted).”

(“Evan, no, no, no. You can’t say that either.”)

They were big guys, and they seemed serious, to some degree.  But I wasn’t going to lose my dignity.  So this is what I did:

I took out a pack of cigarettes. I did have cigarettes after all. I lit one, and, blowing smoke right in the guy’s face, I said, “Go ahead, man. Try it.”

(“Is that actually what happened?” my editor said.

“No,” I said. “But who cares? It’s a column.”

“Evan, you can’t just make stuff up. What really happened?”

“I mean … I just told them I really hope they don’t do that. What was I supposed to say?”

“Well … that’s pretty weak. But no, you can’t just lie.”

“Can I at least say I put up a fight?”

“I’ll think about it.”)

And so, after a stern exchange of words, the group of guys walked off. I was pretty lucky. Who knows? Given the circumstances, one of them could’ve pulled a knife on me.

Fortunately for Steve, a police officer was just down the street. He saw what happened. He chased down the knife wielder. Justice served. All is well with the world.

But no. The cop stopped the knife wielder, spoke to the guy and let him go. As it turned out, the knife wielder was ex-military. Both he and Steve were underage, and both had been drinking. The cop just let it slide.

“Take this as a learning experience,” the cop said to Steve.

I’d like to recreate the scene so that Steve fought the guy off. In my version, he disarmed the knife wielder and stood there, victorious, as his girlfriend kissed him in appreciation. But apparently making stuff up is against journalistic ethics, so I’ll have to tell the truth:

Steve went back to his room, his girlfriend gone, and sat with us while we talked him down. That night had been a bad one to begin with, and for it to end this way, for Steve to be sitting there on the couch looking so emasculated, was a learning experience after all.

I would also say the whole situation was complete and total (deleted).

Evan Smith is a freshman studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. Email him at

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