3. The Karens

On sunrise I regained consciousness. Surprised to be alive, I did a check. My right side was

a mess; swollen eye, bloodied nose, broken clavicle, arm glued to my shirt with dried blood,

no sensation in the ankle which had swollen up like a ball. I felt both nausea and pain.

Bus fares had been eating away my modest income. After much thought, I felt I’d found a

solution. Granted, my plan involved a relatively massive initial investment. Over time,

however, I’d be ahead of the game. It took about three months of going without entertainment,

dinners out, and even the occasional coffee. My friends probably thought I’d turned into a

hermit. Finally, all my penny-pinching reaped a reward. Just last week I proudly marched into

the bike shop and bought myself an electric bicycle. I paid for it in full using my debit card.

It took no time at all to get used to the controls and cruise along the various bike lanes and

bike tracks. Along with commutes to work and uni, I had the freedom to go virtually anywhere

in Cairns and its outskirts.

And then things changed. Last night I attended the office Christmas Party, riding home at

midnight along the bike track.

That’s where things went wrong. Half way home, the bike track crosses the Kuranda Scenic

Railway line. Cautious as usual not to damage my beautiful new bike, I walked it through the

pedestrian gates. I was half way across the railway line, however, when I encountered two

yobs, hiding in the dark, lying in wait for a victim to bash and rob. That victim, of course, was


Having regained consciousness, I considered the fate of my brand-new electric bike. The

thugs probably souvenired my pannier and went joy-riding until their stupidity and inattention

resulted in the destruction of my bike. ‘It’s probably just a twisted heap of metal lying half-

submerged in a cyclone drainage ditch,’ I said to myself grimly.

Meanwhile, my left hand was able to locate my wallet in a front pocket, so I’d lost my bike,

but retained my ID, lifting my spirits a little, despite the pain. Before long someone would find

me and ring an ambulance. I dimly heard the pounding of joggers’ feet approaching.

Two middle-aged, middle-class women in smart pastel-coloured exercise clothes with

exclusive logos came to a sudden halt on the pedestrian crossing. They gave me that look that

I know all too well, and retraced their steps before even checking to see if I was dying.

As a toddler, this type of female would coo at me with false affection. By the time I was in

primary school, however, the same stereotype would view me with distrust. By high school,

distrust had turned to fear.

In a way I understand their reaction. I’m a black man. A person of colour, as they say these

days. The words have changed, but the prejudice remains the same.

And these haughty females are now called Karens. The Karens don’t know me or care that

I’m a part-time bookkeeper and full time third year Accountancy student. All they see is skin

colour, and they don’t like what they see. If I were white, if I were their son or brother, they’d

be proud of me. But I’m the wrong colour to elicit pride or respect. Lying there, embroidering

on the theme, I asked myself if these Karens had any reason to feel superior to me. Any reason

other than skin colour.

These jogging Karens would probably rush to the aid of a white bashing victim.

Mentally and physically, I sagged. ‘Be patient, you idiot,’ I said to myself. ‘Someone else

will come along soon.’ Minutes ticked by, and no one appeared.

I thought I was imaging the sound of hushed voices. Looking through my left eye, I saw the

Karens were back with a sleepy-looking white man. Voices were muffled, but I definitely heard

something about an ambulance. The man said I was obviously drunk or on drugs. These

women, he declared, were risking their life getting involved. ‘Next time you won’t make such

a foolhardy choice. Just leave this type to destroy himself.’

Unexpectedly, the women argued with him.

‘Clearly he’s been injured somehow,’ one of them stated. ‘Even if it was his fault, we can’t

just leave him here on the railway line.’ The man spluttered some comment in his own defence.

‘Look Gary, we only wanted you along to wait with us for the ambulance. If that’s not too

much trouble,’ the other female added sarcastically.

Despite appearances, they weren’t Karens after all.

Perhaps I was dreaming, but it seemed that I could dimly make out blue and red flashing

lights gliding quietly to a stop opposite the pedestrian crossing.

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