I saw a man hit a woman in the face yesterday outside my apartment. I’m not sure how I want to write about it. I’m not really sure how I should.

Do I tell it bit-by-bit? Setting the scene and taking the reader with me so that they can see exactly what happened as it unfolded?

It was a gorgeous day. A sunny, blue-sky, river-sparkling day. We strolled back from the park, and arrived on our block. We heard it before we saw it—the sound of feet pounding pavement, a woman crying and screaming through her tears. Then we saw a man chasing a woman who was running down the sidewalk toward us. He caught up with her a few feet outside our apartment, grabbing her by the hair, yelling in a language I couldn’t place (Russian or something like it). They started to struggle—she tried pushing him away, he grasped her shoulder. Then he struck her. On the face.

Do I start with the end? Maybe try to describe the way I felt part of a community of citizens determined to protect each other?

Within seconds 4 cellphones were out. A woman behind me pushing a stroller yelled, “Call the police.” Two people dialed while two of us looked on, keeping an eye on the couple. The man in the navy blue hoodie connected first. “Yes, we’re on 81st St. near Broadway. There’s a man here who just hit a woman in the face. She’s hurt.”

I thought about so much in those brief minutes. Maybe I could try weaving in my reflections…

I tried to imagine them hours before this moment. Maybe they even smiled as they left their hotel for a day of sightseeing. Or maybe tempers had been getting shorter all morning, and harsh words had turned to insults… But how had it gotten to this…?

Ultimately, none of these attempts feel satisfactory. I saw a man hit a woman in the face. And it made me feel terrible. And sad. And wishing I could do more than stand on the sidewalk watching with my cell phone in my hand…

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