Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Last Drink: Tidal Shifts

Surrounded by hostile enemies in a bar, my confidence was ebbing. I knew that as soon as I finished my drink, I had a fierce beating to absorb. Once I’d reconciled myself with that fate, I could let go of notions of bravery and heroism. I determined to take my punishment quietly and honorably, with dignity and pride and inner peace. Somehow.

But at least they were letting me finish my drink first before that beating had to be administered. Or so I thought.

My original strategy had been to drink the beer so slowly as to bore my enemies into leaving me there after a long wait. But one of Lucas’ henchmen, the one with a Mohawk adorning his head, took the initiative proactively: he snatched the Guinness out of my clutches and swilled the last of it in one gulp. “There.”

Defeated, I rose to my feet to lead Lucas and his crew outside. And I led the way, walking in a ponderous gait, gaze downcast. I mentally prepared myself for the violence that was soon to be visited upon me. Staging the massacre of myself near Lucas’ car briefly appeared to be a bright idea because I knew Angela would be in that car. Maybe she would raise her voice for justice if she saw me being pulverized. But I knew this was a long shot.

Someone in the bar called out my name before I was shepherded out of the premises. I turned my head to look and caught a glimpse of Furri-Furri, a Ugandan friend. He was signaling me to approach him where he sat with his lady - she seemed to dazedly scrutinize a parade of empty bottles before them on the table they occupied. I faltered as I considered going to them to say hi, but Lucas, who was behind me, pushed me hard in my back so that I stumbled forward, onward to slaughter.

Furri-Furri saw all this. Being a clever guy, he read the situation correctly and decided to involve himself. He followed us outside, joining us just as Lucas was wrapping his sweaty left palm around the front of my collar and rolling up a fist with his right. I was tiptoeing on the balls of my feet in a weak-willed preparation to whip a kick in Lucas’ exposed balls if indeed Lucas turned out to be foolish enough to send that fist of his at me. Neither of us struck the other, though, because Furri-Furri stepped right in - and started buddy-talking me enthusiastically.

“You man!” Furri-Furri smiled with me, widely, as though my collar wasn’t at that exact moment in the grip of an aggressive man bent on bringing physical harm to me. “What happened that day?” I had no idea what he was talking about. “You disappeared!” His eyes shone with mischief. Catching on gradually, I decided to play along by offering a fist bump which he returned vigorously.

Furri-Furri is powerfully built, albeit slightly shorter than I am. His aura, manner of carriage and general bearing all suggest violence; a certain reckless daredevilry reeks off him. Just talking to him revived the fight in me.

I disentangled Lucas’ hand off my shirt with a casual chop and continued my inane chat with Furri-Furri. “I tried to call you back and you were also not at your place!” I was speaking over-enthusiastically, with exaggerated grandiose gestures, just like Furri-Furri’s, except the Ugandan’s gestures were better styled to the work of displaying his fearsome musculature – and very effective at that. Mine was a forced performance whereas his menace came "naturally".

Lucas was bothered by the sudden climate change in my attitude; he faced Furri-Furri and said “Excuse us,” and was replied simply and instantly with “No.” The Ugandan hulk turned to me with his companionable smile. “Ooh! That day I was wasted you man! Naps! Even I heard somebody knocking. But I said fuck off let me first sleep.”

We laughed, crassly, as I nodded energetically, because he had spoken dangerously.

At this juncture in the proceedings, Angela emerged from Lucas’ car and joined us. She was in a high temper, fixing Lucas an impatient pout. “Are we going to Westie now or what?” she demanded, “Hopefully today.” Furri-Furri turned his shaggy head squarely at her, giving her a fierce appraising look that seemed to have to force its way under his eyebrows, but although he said nothing, he somehow conveyed that he could have done without her noisy interruption. Such direct glaring first intimidated and then totally killed Angela’s queenly airs: she suddenly became uncharacteristically docile - which did nothing to civilize the Ugandan's unmitigated harsh look or even to divert it from her.

I seized the initiative. “Let me talk to Lucas aside for a minute; you guys just wait for me here,” I said to Furri-Furri. He nodded; “Easy, man! I’m here!” (which meant many things!) And as Lucas and I went “aside to talk,” we left three friends of Lucas facing a monstrously muscular Ugandan who wasn’t smiling with them. Angela fled the scene quietly; she wisely went back inside the car.

“Aside” was a road leading into what looked like darkness beyond. When Lucas and I got to “aside”, I asked him to let me know exactly what topic it was that he wanted to talk about which could only be discussed outside and why; and because something in my tone conveyed evil, he first checked that my fists weren’t clenched. Failing that assurance, he took off running towards the distant darkness.

I chased after him. Predator instinct, but do I say.

There was chaos and a little shouting and yelling behind us, but I knew Furri-Furri was fully in charge of the situation.

I had the time of my life chasing after Lucas. In fact I was quite amused to see him run with dedication that I taunted him, laughing as I ran. Being fast, I was gaining on Lucas, intent on seeing if I could scare him into pissing his pants. The fact that there was an audience - a scattering of drinking and otherwise partying students milling about that darkened road - only added to my speed and flair. Yes, I began to show off.

But my left foot found a pothole at the critical juncture when my arm was outstretched and my hand poised to swoop and grab Lucas’ collar from behind for a very comical end to the chase. He would have stopped with difficulty, his neck being momentarily strangulated on his collar by his own running momentum; perhaps a few of his shirt buttons would have popped off and gone flying away as a result, and I would have let him fall on his back, a victim of his own inertia. Just like in the cartoons, is how I visualized it.

The accidental discovery by my left foot of said pothole in the darkness twisted the associated left ankle, and I tumbled clumsily on the rough tarmac in pain, feeling foolish for falling down just when I was ready for the swoop. I knew the chase was over. This did not stop Lucas from rapidly hot-stepping it deeper into the darkness. As I watched him go, I smiled a pained grimace, a feat made harder by the hysterical laughter of those drunken youths who had seen me fall. For a while, self-consciousness anesthetized me as my pride had to contend with the image of that weasel Lucas scurrying away.

Rising slowly to my feet, I made a mental note to thank Furri-Furri later, and I limped homeward.

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