The musings of an aspiring carver of space

Oulsen argues no more

Shortly after we were married, my wife and I found ourselves homeless for five weeks. By choice.

Well, we were coerced, more correctly.

Relations with our upstairs neighbour had been deteriorating for some time, when, for reasons that aren't particularly relevant, he tried to break down our front door, loudly threatening to drive a screwdriver through my skull.

That evening, we fled.

Luckily, we have many good friends, and their couches and spare rooms became our home for the next five weeks, while we wrote the owner of the flat, the company who managed it, now that it was council housing, and just about anyone else who would hear to us.

Eventually they were evicted. We returned to our home. And kept checking over our shoulders for many years afterwards.

(I've only seen him once since that fateful day, sitting at an outdoor cafe. We had that moment of mutual recognition. I poured every bit of vitriol I lay claim to — “top-full of direst cruelty” — in a look I held 'til we were but arms' length apart. I got nothing back. And continued down the pavement without pause.)

I would never, ever have done that in the United States of America.

There, I would've crossed the road immediately, or, more likely, reversed course immediately. I seriously question this man's judgement, and even his very mental stability. The thought that he might at any time be armed with a gun is terrifying, even as I write this.

Chad Oulsen did not have my advantages: in his terminally brief encounter with retired police captain Curtis Reeves, he had no such foreknowledge. He could only make assumptions: about people who frequent cinemas, who watch Wahlberg movies, who treat the trailers as part of the entertainment, who are old, etc., but also about what it means to live in civilised society, to be a responsible adult, etc. All in a few seconds, and then, presumably, in the minutes while Reeves was attempting and failing to find willing cinema staff to intercede.

Was Oulsen right to throw his popcorn at Reeves, when the latter returned? I think most would say no: it's assault. With the benefit of hindsight, I'm sure even Oulsen would concede that point.

A mistake, then.

Oulsen will never make another.

Since my children were born, my cinema-going has fallen off a cliff. But I would say on all the half dozen occasions since then when I've found myself in the cinema, I've checked my phone for messages from the babysitter. During the film itself. And I've messaged the babysitter during the trailers as well, I'm quite sure.

Those who know me, know that I have a temper. I'd like to think I'm better able to handle it now than in times past, but, if I'm honest, I could see a time when I'd have words with someone who objected to the actions I've just described, and those words might be loud, salty, or both. Never would I have imagined that such actions would leave my children without a father, my wife without a husband.

This episode, eight years in the making, is about so much. It is about reciprocity. It is about commensurate actions. It is about how firearms can change a situation in the blink of an eye. It is about living. And it is about living in fear.

I feared having a screwdriver driven through my skull in a moment of surprise or distraction. My front door wouldn't've stopped a bullet of any significant calibre, but that's almost beside the point: I had options, which I availed myself of.

If Oulsen was even aware of the gun, before he was dying, it was certainly a moment in which all of his options vanished. And with them, all his chances for exercising judgement, both good and bad. Forever.

That is not civil. That is not commensurate. And today's verdict; that is not justice.