I remembered the following incident after listening to a podcast called Devil on my Shoulder. The episode was about people who say they found themselves “inexplicably doing something random and bad, something which made no sense to them at all.”
Picture by dfinnecy on Flickr
I knelt beside my best friend, running my fingers over the smooth contours of the object in my hand.
We were cloaked in the shadows of night, peering down from the 6th floor balcony of my downtown apartment.
Inside, the flicker of the television signaled that my parents were sufficiently distracted. They probably thought that we, like other 12-year-old girls, were out giggling about crushes or telling scary stories. They had no reason to suspect that their bookish daughter and her polite classmate were plotting an attack.
“What about him?” whispered Lily,* pointing to a balding man in a golf shirt.
“Nah,” I responded. “He’s walking pretty quickly.”
I don’t remember how or why we started doing it, but Lily and I had developed a mischievous game. We played it every few days, growing bolder each time. It had started with one egg, tossed very far away from a pedestrian walking below. He jumped and let out a little scream. As he looked up into the sky with a sort of bewildered awe, we muffled our laughter.
That was our simple goal: scare the heck out of people and laugh. We never planned to actually hit anyone.
But the night of “the incident,” Lily and I had each stolen two eggs from our parents — just enough to entertain ourselves for a couple of hours without stirring suspicions in the adults. We had already tossed one several feet ahead of a grumpy tenant from the building, who jumped back and paused briefly before screaming out the most typical reaction:
“WHAT THE F—!?”
We loved watching the disorientation of the close call — people shaking their fists, scratching their heads or bolting into the night. It was fun to predict how different people might react, and to marvel at those that kept walking, unfazed. We didn’t even consider little old ladies, but teenage boys and drunks were favourite targets.
That night, a car pulled up in front of the building and a man in a suit stepped out. He leaned against the passenger door, as music spilled through his open windows. He watched the entrance of the building intently.
I vaguely remember shaking my head at Lily, as if to say the nice suit and glossy car were untouchable. It was interesting enough to wonder who he was waiting for, and where they might be going.
A woman soon emerged from inside. She was gorgeous, smiling as she showed off a flowing white halter dress. Against the night air, she looked like she’d been draped in the milky way itself. Her hips swayed melodiously, and the man coyly stroked his chin as she approached.
We couldn’t hear what they were saying, but even preteens could read such body language.
As if preparing to watch a movie, I sat down and leaned my cheek against my palm. It was terribly exiting, and I turned to make a comment to Lily about the possibility of a live-action kiss.
But when I looked at her, time froze.
The first thing I noticed was her hand up in the air… then the way she’d arched her back… and then the oval object in her hand.
“Nnnnooo!” I began, as the egg soared past my eyes and hurdled down toward the scene below us.
And then, as if in slow motion, I watched as the egg not only hit the woman, but exploded all over the very center of her dress, its gooey contents splashing in every direction.
I was speechless, hands rising to my mouth.
The man’s smirk disappeared from his face, and his casual lean immediately turned into a wrestler’s pose. The woman’s shoulders locked and she stood, hands quivering, for what seemed like eternity.
Lily and I were silent. Several seconds passed before anyone moved.
Several floors above the couple, a family was having a barbeque. They were the only household with their lights on, and with visible activity on the balcony. A man had been leaning over the railing at the time of the egging.
His eyes locked with the driver’s.
Before we could process what was happening, the suited man began yelling accusations and the strongest one-syllable words we had ever heard in our young lives. The man on the balcony responded in kind, automatically defensive and enraged. As the venomous epithets flew between them, and the woman stared at her dress in disbelief, and I turned to Lily.
“Why…why would you d-do that!?” I stammered.
Lily’s face was blank, her jaw slightly dropped. She said nothing.
As the screaming grew louder, we went inside, almost slinking past my parents to get to the refrigerator. I quietly dropped my egg back into its carton.
In the harsh light of the kitchen, I clearly saw the look on Lily’s face. She was astounded.
“I… I don’t know why I did it,” she said, the colour drained from her face.
“I really … just don’t know.”
*I’ve changed my friend’s name, just in case our old landlord is still on the hunt for us. Just so you don’t get the impression that preteen girls are that easy to shake, I’ll cryptically mention that we were up to no good again in no time. Although eggs stopped disappearing from our parent’s fridges, we took to pranks on the telephone and devising ways to escape from our homes undetected at 4:00 a.m. to cycle down the steep hills of Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Don’t worry, moms and dads, we turned out okay.