Once in Algiers, someone grabbed me and started demanding money. I tried to shake him off, but he wouldn’t let go of my arm. When I told him I didn’t have any money, he started yelling, asking for my passport.
It was a fairly busy street, but no one paid any attention. As I tried to break free, he got more and more aggressive, trying to drag me into a side street. I looked around, and couldn’t see any police. So, with my free hand, I pulled out a switchblade. I pressed it against his throat as hard as I could, screaming threats in English. I assume he didn’t understand a word, but he got the picture. The man tried to back away, his hands raised. Propelled by adrenaline, I followed. I kept the knife pointed squarely at his neck, jabbing at his plump Adam’s apple. He backed straight into traffic, then ran. I watched him stumble through the gridlock, then started heading in the opposite direction. As the haze of adrenaline receded, I felt something wet on my hand. It was blood. Two police came around a corner. I shoved my hand in a pocket.
By the time I got back to my hotel, the inside of my pocket was sticky, like I’d left sweets in it. I hadn’t cut myself, so I could only conclude that I’d pressed the blade a little too hard. As I washed my hands, and rinsed off my knife, I started feeling waves of guilt. Not because of what I’d done, but how it made me feel. I was disgusted with myself for enjoying the adrenaline rush. I looked in the mirror and watched myself. I looked cold.
I remembered the fear in his eyes. It was empowering. Like a shot of espresso. Even after he was gone, the adrenaline kept pumping. After it was gone, though, I was just left with guilt.