By: Richie Covington
On January 5th, I was walking to the store to get some groceries for my mother, whom I help take care of. She has a bad heart condition and is on hospice care. I had to walk by a gas station on my way there. When I was walking by, this man in his 30s with a strong Southern accent yelled to get my attention: not realizing I was a guy at first. When I turned and spoke to him, he said, "Oh my God, you're a faggot!"
I usually ignore people when they say things like that to me, but he caught me in an uncharacteristically bad mood that day, so I decided to defend myself. I said, "Damn right I'm a fag, what of it?" and kept going. I never stopped or even made eye contact. It's my habit of ignoring the bully when I'm in a situation like that. I feel like if you make eye contact with a person bullying you, acknowledging that you are being affected their taunts, it can make it worse. So I kept on moving and didn't look back.
I was about to turn the corner, when I heard him scream from right behind me, "Hey faggot." Not even really thinking about it I turned around. He first punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. When I doubled over, all of a sudden my vision went black and I was seeing stars. He punched me directly in the nose. I fell to the ground and felt him kick me over before I blacked out. The guy took our grocery money from my coat pocket (twenty dollars) and got back to his car to leave. It all happened very fast, it was over in just a couple minutes.
I was gushing blood and it took me a good couple of minutes sitting there before I realized what had happened, that he had punched me in the face and that's why I was bleeding. I've never in my life been hit before. It was very scary and startling. I put my scarf up to my nose and walked back home. There I cleaned the blood off.
My mom told me that I needed stitches and probably had a broken nose. I knew I needed to report the attack to the police, but I going to the ER took precedence at the time. I called the hospital and they said they'd call a police officer to file a report when I came to the ER.
So I called a couple friends for a ride to and from the ER. That night my nightmares were so bad I bit my tongue and woke to blood in my mouth from the sore where I'd bitten it. I'm in constant pain. And even though it is due to my vanity, what I felt like was already my worst trait (my big Italian nose) was now even worse. My huge nose was now a huge crooked nose. They couldn't do anything about it at the ER. I needed stitches and they said it was too swollen to do anything about it. They told me I'd probably have to go to a plastic surgeon to fix it. They gave me a number to call for a follow up appointment, but I don't have insurance for any such thing and certainly don't have the money to pay for it. I don't work because most of my time is spent taking care of my mom. We live on her alimony and barely scrape by as it is.
I've heard about these things happening, but it was always a distant thing that I never thought would happen to me. I keep replaying it in my head, what if:
What if: I would've waited five more minutes before I left home?
What if... I wouldn't have replied to that guy?
What if... I'd have been more careful and noticed him behind me before he called out to me?
What if: I had fought back?
An officer came to the ER to make out the police report. He seemed very uninterested. He asked me what happened, wrote it down, and left. He was there all of about 5 minutes. I always thought hate crimes were much more serious. Later I found out Alabama doesn't have hate crime laws that cover the gay community. Go figure, Alabama not having comprehensive hate crime laws.