Why you should care
Outside of being able to legally drink, most 21st birthday celebrations aren’t too eventful, but this one ended with an assault and a hospital visit.
It was my 21st birthday. I’d been away down South at college but decided to come home to celebrate with friends and family in Lodi, New Jersey. Lodi, outside of being the home of Glenn Danzig and his band Misfits, was a pretty normal Jersey suburb.
How big? So big that I even made flyers. Just like we’d do for shows back in the day pre-Facebook. The day of the party, I assured my aunt, who was letting me have the party at her house, that it wasn’t going to be a crazy party. Big, but not crazy.
She said, “Just clean up and don’t let anyone leave really drunk,” then she got in her car and went to Greenwood Lake for the weekend. Her house was nice and she was so proud of it. It was a big split-level home, lots of rooms, a pool in the back. Our family used to have a lot of parties there so her home was a place where we had many good times, and I would have my 21st birthday there.
In the end, the flyers must have worked since a lot of people came. Everyone was wasted but, true to my word, I wasn’t letting them leave that way. At one point though this guy Mike showed up that used to hang around with my ex-boyfriend.
My friends heard me screaming and started banging on the door. He hauled off and punched me … I went down. Hard.
I thought it was weird that he showed up. I broke up with my ex months before, mostly because he was a serial cheater, but it took me a long time to shake him off. He kept coming back until finally I had stopped him and also stopped talking to his friends so I have no idea how Mike knew about the party. Maybe the flyers?
At the end of the night, there were just a few of my old friends still there. My friends. And Mike. He was tall, about 6-foot-2, and stocky. Despite any and many social cues that it was time to go, Mike kept talking to me. Talking and trying to be personable. Some version of what I think he considered flirting. Which I knew was dodgy because my ex had said Mike was crazy and if my ex said he was crazy, Mike was fucking crazy. My ex knew crazy.
I got tired of talking to Mike and excused myself to go to the bathroom. The bathroom closest to us was occupied, so I used the bathroom in the master bedroom.
When I got out, Mike was standing behind my aunt’s bedroom door.
He smiled and leaned back on the door, locking it, and then started moving toward me. I put my arms up to push him away. He grabbed me and kissed me. I got away for a second, screamed and punched him in the face.
My friends heard me screaming and started banging on the door. Mike hauled off and punched me in the eye. I went down. Hard. Half-conscious, I looked up and he was standing over me. I don’t know how my friends got in. They either picked the lock or kicked in the door, but they got in, saving me and kicking Mike out. When I woke up fully I was in the hospital. They gave me an MRI. In the end, everything seemed OK, outside of a huge shiner. But it wasn’t.
When my ex heard about it the next day, he put out an APB. He wasn’t a cop but an all-points bulletin went out through Lodi just the same. For the location of Mike. At any time of the day or night.
A couple of months later, my ex got a call that Mike was sleeping at someone’s place, crashing on the couch. That person also said that the front door would be left open.
That was all the information he needed, so my ex went over to this person’s house with four of his other friends. There’d be no escaping out of a back door or down the driveway. They all had tube socks with them. Tube socks with cans of Coke in them.
They walked in the front door and into the living room, where Mike was sleeping on the couch and they beat him while he was sleeping. I don’t know how long the beating went on, and I don’t know what was said or even if anything was said.
I went back to school and moved back to Lodi after graduation. I never heard much about Mike again, but I did hear that he can’t read anymore because of the beating. That’s how badly it fucked him up.
Did the punishment fit the crime? In my mind, just about. And I know what you might be tempted to say, but the moral of the story goes right to the heart of what I think about how exactly it fit the crime: Sometimes there are better ways to deal with things than going to the cops.