My mugging

Hi all. I’m sorry this note is short, but I only have the use of one hand right now. A lot of friends have emailed or messaged to ask what happened to me in NYC and how I am doing. This is the short version, due to my not being able to type with both hands. And it’s hard because of that to reply to everyone individually.

On Sunday night, after seeing a movie with my friend Rick and some other NY friends, I walked Rick home to his building late at night, then headed off to the apartment where I was pet-sitting for a friend for ten days. On my way back to my place, I took Bleecker Street, a street I’ve always taken since I started visiting NYC twelve years ago on a regular basis. In the blocks between 7th Avenue and Perry Street, I was attacked by two young men. One in particular did the attacking. The other stood in shadow for most of the time. I didn’t even know he was there initially.

What happened was, I was looking at my cell phone and as I stepped up onto the curb, the attacking young man came out of a shadow and punched me in the face. On my chin, specifically. It was the hardest hit I’ver ever felt in my life, not that I’ve felt many. It took me up off my feet. Though I didn’t know it at the time, my flip flops flew off, and so did my glasses. I landed on my back, hard. But also on my left arm, which I instinctually used to try to brace the fall. I saw stars, literally, and my vision went in and out. When I finally had it back, seconds later, the young man was standing over me. He said, “Give my your phone.”

I was in shock, pretty stunned, and I had damages I didn’t register already. But somehow, for some reason outside of myself, I pulled myself up from the ground, dragging my left knee and foot against the sidewalk as I did so, because I couldn’t use my left arm, which resulted in some bad road rash, and stood in front of him. In a fit, I began hitting him across his face with my phone, saying, “You want my phone, here’s my phone.” This went on for a while. I said some other things while I was swinging, like, “Who do you think you are?” and “What kind of person jumps at someone and hits them in the middle of the night?” I swear, I was like an outraged granny with a handbag, except I had an iPhone. And I wasn’t a granny, and my swings fell hard.

The guy eventually jumped backward, out of my range, and looked off to the side. He said, “Aren’t you going to help me?” and it was only then that I realized there was a second guy with him. I do remember thinking, Oh god, please don’t come help him. I quickly looked where he was looking, and saw the second guy crossing the street away from us, shaking his head, saying, “You picked the wrong dude.”

The guy who attacked me then looked back at me. I was still swinging wildly and cursing at him. I’m good at cursing, especially when I’m afraid and pissed off. He shook his head like he couldn’t believe this is how things went, and then he turned around and ran away from me.

It was only after he ran away and turned a corner that I realized I was barefoot, and that one of my feet was bleeding bad, and that I couldn’t see well, because my glasses, too, had flown off in the hit and fall part of the incident. I got down on all fours, found my flip flops and put them on like I was in a horror movie, frantically, afraid, and then started looking for my glasses, which I was sure were broken, but turns out, when I found them, they weren’t.

I got up, turned back in the direction I came from, saw the friend of the assailant crossing the street back to my side about block down, and thought, Oh Christ, just leave me alone! He started coming toward me. I held up my cell phone and shouted that I had called 911 and to come for it. The fact was, I had tried to dial 911 but my phone had clicked off in the fight because my thumb had covered the top button thing and when I tried to call it up I couldn’t get a screen. Frantic, I faked it. Then the “friend” of the assailant turned down a street corner too.

I huffed it back to the apartment where I was staying, angry and scared, and locked myself in once I got there, and tried to reach my friend Rick, whose phone was off because of the movie we’d gone to, and he’d forgotten to turn it back on. My arm, I realized only then, was beginning to swell and had stabbing pain going through it. I iced it and talked to my partner on the phone, and kept trying to call my friend Rick. I was sort of out of my head, afraid to leave the apartment at that point. I decided to wait until morning to get medical attention.

So I spent the night in a lot of pain, with my arm turning colors and swelling to a point where I thought the skin would burst and weird alien worms would swarm out of it. Then in the morning Rick got my messages and came to my place with a cab and took me to the emergency room. I have a fractured left humerus, right beneath the ball that locks into the shoulder socket. My arm is really crazily black, bruised from the fall it took for me.

I had to return home the very next day, and when I did, I went to get follow up care with an orthopedic trauma specialist. I’ll be in a sling for 4-6 weeks, and on some pain meds that are making me woozy. So while I’d like to respond to all of my friends individually, I hope you’ll understand that I can’t right now. I love you all to pieces, but it’s taken me forever to write this with one hand. I hope you understand.

I’m incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support in this time for me. I’m on an emotional rollercoaster, and I appreciate all of the kindness people have shown me in the wake of this event. Right now I’m trying to come to terms with the event beyond the event itself, and trying to stop thinking about all the pieces of that incident that fling themselves back into my vision at odd moments. It all feels a bit like a nightmare. I’ll try to be in touch as soon as I can. Thanks again for caring.

Until then, love to you all.






33 responses to “My mugging”

  1. Tiffany Schmidt Avatar

    Oh my head, Chris! I’m so sorry this happened and so glad that things didn’t escalate further. Sending gentle hugs and lots of love. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. (or if you need a cookie care package!) xo!

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      thanks, tiffany!

  2. Eric Whitmer Avatar
    Eric Whitmer

    …sorry you had to endure that horrific incident…glad to hear that you will be ok

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      thanks, eric, i appreciate it!

  3. Robert Avatar

    Jesus. Chris, thank god you’re alright. There is some scary shit going on out there. Healing vibes and love to you and yours! XOR

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      thanks, robert!

  4. Sean Markey Avatar


    So sorry you had to go through this. I hope your recovery is swift and there is no lasting damage.
    Im currently (just started) reading “The Love We Share Without Knowing.” 🙂
    Much love,

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      thank you, sean!

  5. Robert Avatar

    So sorry this happened to you, but, man, you are amazing! Hope your recovery goes quickly and smoothly.

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      thank you, robert, i hope so too!

  6. Mel Fox Avatar
    Mel Fox

    This is the story I guessed at from reading the FB comments 🙁 What a horrible, awful, no good thing, and I hope the healing comes swiftly. But your bravery is astonishing, as is the sense of humor you still managed to maintain while writing about this horrific assault. Thinking of you!

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      thanks, mel! i’m trying to get used to sitting back and chilling. i’m too used to doing! now i’m in an enforced period of chilling. 🙁 time to figure that now.

      1. Mel Fox Avatar
        Mel Fox

        Milk it Chris, for all it is worth. Time to stop doing, let others do, and take care of yourself. At the residency in the ‘Burgh and always thinking of you and all the other amazing students who’ve been here with us before!

  7. davidlomax Avatar

    Chris, don’t write back in response to this. Just lie back and relax. I just wanted to write and express my sympathy. This is horrible. Please rest and be better. I’m thinking of you.

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      thanks, david, trying to chill!

  8. Elizabeth Bear (@matociquala) Avatar

    Yikes, Chris. So glad you’re okay.

  9. Maryrose_Wood (@Maryrose_Wood) Avatar

    oh no oh no! I am so very sorry this happened, Chris. I am also awed at your fierce badassery. I am sending love & healing to your broken & bruised parts and to your heart, too; it is a deeply unsettling thing to endure and process. Big hugs, xoxo.

  10. fusakota Avatar


  11. Karen Avatar

    Love right back at you, Chris. And lots of ice. And peaceful recovery.

  12. Meagan Avatar

    Holy shit! I’m so glad you’re ok.

    Honestly when I saw the title of the post, I thought you were going to be talking about taking silly photos for a book flap.

    I’m glad you’re ok.

  13. anthonydmitzel Avatar

    Man, Chris! Take it easy and heal up. Me and Chiara from Italy

  14. Colleen Lindsay (@ColleenLindsay) Avatar

    Chris – I’m just hearing about this now. I am so sorry! I hope you reported it to the police. I’m pretty sure this was a hate crime and not just a mugging. We have had a lot of young gay men being attacked in the West Village over the past few months; it’s gotten really bad. Please take care of yourself, my friend.

  15. Jim Stevens-Arce Avatar

    Geez, Chris, what a terrible experience to have endured. I’m glad to hear the outcome wasn’t a far worse one, and I hope you’ll be healed and whole quickly.

  16. Joe S. Sanders Avatar
    Joe S. Sanders

    Big, tight hugs, Chris…hugs that pointedly avoid that left arm. You’re cherished.

  17. iamrazorwing Avatar

    I’m sorry you went through this. Hope you have a speedy recovery!

  18. Haddayr Copley-Woods Avatar

    You are a brilliant light in the world and yes. For so so so many reasons, they picked the “wrong dude.” Thank you so much for writing this update with only one hand! I hope your shoulder and your psyche heal quickly. xoxo

  19. theliteratecondition Avatar

    I am so glad to hear you are okay–Healing, in pain, but okay. Rest. Remember you are loved; remember you make a difference in the world. Healing is demanding and difficult work so give yourself the time and acknowledgement you deserve.
    – kat (Sof’s friend, Wiscon)

  20. Mary Rickert Avatar
    Mary Rickert



  21. Jeffrey Rice Avatar

    You’re a total badass. I’m glad you weren’t hurt worse and hope you heal quickly. Don’t feel compelled to type a reply.

  22. Auburn Sandstrom Avatar

    Hello there — you don’t know me but a friend of a friend posted a link of this entry on his wall and I became very engrossed in your story. In 2009 my husband was the victim of a random, violent assault and incurred a severe traumatic brain injury. I want to tell you that there will be layers of process to go through and that it will take more time for your mind and spirit to find safe footing than it takes for your arm to heal. I personally benefitted a great deal from meeting with a trauma counselor provided by Victim Assistance. If you have a local Victim Assistance, I highly recommend you contact them and get support. The most important thing I gained from counseling was the assurance that a) there would be many many emotional changes and b) that anything I was doing/feeling was “normal”, that people react with rage, with sorrow, with intellectualization, with alienation from or deeper commitment to their religious beliefs, with numbness, with substance abuse, with depression, with busy-ness… There will be more to deal with here than a convalescence for your arm. Don’t force yourself to over-perform this year when you “think” you should be all better. There will be days, even after you’re feeling much better, where you won’t feel like getting out of bed. They pass and there are days of pure gratitude when you feel like yourself. Just roll with the process and the changes and cut yourself major slack. Hope this is helpful to you. Blessings.
    Auburn from Akron, Ohio.

  23. Bill Bauerband Avatar
    Bill Bauerband

    Glad you are in one piece Chris, very scary and sorry to hear about this happening.

  24. therese pieczynski Avatar
    therese pieczynski

    Chris, I’m an acquaintance from Wiscon. Just wanted to add my voice to all the above. What a horrible experience. I’m sending virtual hugs and wishes for your speedy recovery.

  25. Linda Lancaster Avatar
    Linda Lancaster

    It’s something I think of quite often: why do bad things happen to good people? There’s just no understanding these things, but I choose to think something good will ultimately come from your experience. You are such a gifted writer and have so much to bring to this world. I would be happy to have one-tenth of your talent. You will remain in my prayers and I believe good things are coming your way. Best wishes, Linda

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