It’s the Thursday night before Valentine’s Day and, as I walk home from my office at Spare Change News, I witness an assault of a young, homeless woman in front of the Harvard Square “T” station entrance. She’s clutching a red suitcase and has a bruise on her face. It looks like she’s trying to flee the situation, but the man, who is her former boyfriend, has her cornered in front of the escalator.
Wearing yellow pants and a camouflage jacket, the man looks aggressive and his tone quickly turns violent. He’s apparently upset because the raven-haired girl has reported him to the police. His gestures become abusive and he grabs her suitcase, lifting it as if he is going to hit her with it. An elderly homeless gentleman, standing at the top of the escalator, intervenes and shields her. She watches as her former boyfriend rips open her suitcase and violently throws her belongings onto the snowy streets of Harvard Square. Her stuff—blankets, makeup, a curling iron and personal items in a black, plastic bag—is haphazardly tossed on the dirty, wet sidewalk.
Based on the young woman’s expression, her entire life is in that suitcase.
She runs down the escalator while the elderly homeless man holds the perpetrator back. The young woman is running for her life. I walk over to the MBTA police and tell them what I just witnessed. According to our brief conversation, the two cops know the couple well and the female police officer, who has a glimmer of compassion in her eyes, quickly walks down the stairs to check on the girl.
I follow, and the victim, who is physically shaken, tells me that “he lays his hands” on her. Our eyes lock. I nod in agreement. “I know,” I say. “Stay away from him,” I beg her.
The police console her while I run upstairs to collect her belongings. There’s an empty black box, which looks like a small jewelry case. The elderly homeless man points out the plastic bag, which, at first, looks like garbage. “Don’t forget that bag,” he says. I smile at him. He was an unsung hero in the situation. If he didn’t shield her, she would have been hit again, or worse, pushed down the escalator.
I carry her suitcase to her. She’s talking to two friends in front of the MBTA police station while I deliver her belongings. She’s obviously battle-scarred but looks relieved. Her thick makeup can’t hide the bruises on her face. Over the loudspeaker, I hear the MBTA catchphrase: “If you see something, say something.” I exhale, trying to hold back the tears, and walk away.
I find out later that her name is Jade.