Wednesday, July 8, 2009
"Have you ever been in jail?"
How does one exactly answer that question? When Anonymous Lilies asked it of me yesterday, I normally would have laughed and turned the question around on her. Stupid questions can always be turned around on someone else.
The problem is, I guess it's not a stupid question.
Jail or prison? I asked. "There's a difference?" Of course. Jail is a holding cell before you're charged with a crime. Prison is where you go for punishment after you've been found guilty of a crime. "I really didn't realize that. So?"
A memory flooded back to me, one I didn't share with her in my answer.
In 1998, I was in a serious relationship. Jeri. She lived in the city in an area that used to be horrible but is now not so bad, even considered posh. After a Tuesday night of drinking at a horrible dive bar known for its share of junkies, musician has-beens, and punk rockers on the verge of yuppidom, I was not feeling up to hang out for much longer. It was only 1am, and we were known to drink until 4am when some of the late bars close.
"Are you heading back?" I'm heading home. We didn't live together, but she lived in the city itself whereas I lived in the outskirts. We were having a rocky few weeks and I was seriously contemplating breaking it off. "Will you come by in the morning?" Sure. Please get home safe. We hugged and kissed, she said her I love you, that she didn't really completely mean.
I wandered down the major street towards my car, sober because I was holding back while my "friends" pounded them back. I didn't have a lot of love for the folks at the bar, not even the employees who I usually get along with. These were Jeri's friends. I think.
Jeri was particularly gorgeous, a thin, dishy blonde with a streak of brilliance that shined on rare occasions. Everyone and their father wanted to be with Jeri, it seemed. Rock stars, actors, television reporters, athletes. She was always asked out by this person or that person. I was never bothered by her popularity, and always figured she'd meet someone "better" than me and dump me. I was prepared. Then she fell in love.
I picked up my car a few blocks away and started the trek home, normally a 15-20 minute drive. Back in 1998, cell phones weren't that popular and the one I had was the size of a toaster. I did have 2 pagers which were alphanumeric. They had operators who took messages and beamed them to the screen.
Almost halfway to my home, I get a text page: "Dont feel safe. Bill creepy. Walking home soon. Call you. Love you." I didn't like the sound of the text, but there was no reply feature. She didn't have a cell phone or a pager, so it was just update-style text messages.
I decided to turn around. I rarely do that, never getting in the way of people's lives unless they ask me. Honestly, there is little you can do to effect a person if they're not ready to be effected. I'm not talking just about helping them out, but even offering advice or assistance in finding a job is useless if they don't want advice or a job. Jeri was the partying socialite, she knew how the handle herself.
Bill was a problem, though. A tall, good looking, strung out waste of oxygen, Bill was a spoiled rich kid who partied himself through his folks' inheritance. He had enough money to go forever with his useless stunted life, but he preferred hard drugs, hard partying, hard living. I never understood why people are attracted to such drivel, but so it is.
Bill liked Jeri. A lot. He constantly put pressure on her, right in front of me, to at least sleep with him. Jeri wasn't the sort to be trusted, but I am not a jealous lover. I would never get sad or jealous if someone I was with decided to be with someone else -- it happens so frequently in life that you have to accept it, like mold on mushrooms, soft spots on apples. I never asked her who her other or previous lovers were, though.
I got back to the bar in record time, parking illegally right in front. One could say that I definitely learned in a heartbeat that there was no love from any of the regulars there. All I heard when I asked was that Jeri and Bill were making out in the back seating area the moment I left, and that they had left together a few minutes ago.
At this point I contemplated just leaving. She was a free woman, even if we had a relationship. It is not my place to babysit her or tell her what she should do or who she should be with. A 26 year old should sleep in the bed they make, and the more a person pushes for a different lifestyle, the harder people fight back and do worse things.
One my way out, the one person that I still call my friend to this day told me that she was worried for Jeri. Jeri had a tendency to get drunk and stupid, and Bill was always carrying odd pills and drugs. I shrugged, thanked her for the information, and decided to drive to Jeri's house not 12 blocks away just to make sure everything was OK. She did text page me, so I felt I had to at least follow up.
Instead of driving down the main thoroughfare, I hopped into an alley that goes behind the shady bars. It's a bit of a shortcut, and as the bars let out the pedestrian traffic tends to clog up the road. All I needed was a 5 minute hop down the alley, double park in the next one, and zip up to check to make sure she's safe and sound.
I never made it to her apartment, though. 2 blocks into the alley, there they were. Having sex, obviously. Jeri loved her punk rock skirts and tank tops. Her skirt lifted up, Bill against her, against a dumpster. My heart fell because I knew he wouldn't be using protection, and I'm adamant about being safe. I wouldn't dump her for fucking another guy, I'd dump her for fucking a dirty, disgusting crackhead without a condom.
I contemplated pulling into reverse and zipping back from where I came from when I looked again and noticed she was crying. Her face was twisted and she had a bruised eye. Something isn't right. I stopped the car 50 feet back with my lights on and stepped out.
Bill looked over his head. "Don't worry man, it's nothing." It's nothing if she's OK and she asks me to leave. Jeri opens her bruised eye and screams, "please." I step forward, walking slowly towards him, knowing that the worst thing I can do is run which would give him a warning that I was pissed.
Instead, he pulled out of her legs and zipped up his pants, then turned around to face me. He was big, about 6'2", lanky but muscular. I had seen him do pull-ups to impress the women, and I knew he was a reasonable fighter since he did get drunk and put his mouth on other men's women often. Of course the ladies loved him, he was a complete loser, and they could rush to be his mommy.
As he took his first step towards me, Jeri collapsed onto the rocky alley pavement, her arms looped in front of her and her face against those arms. She was balling, a horrible death knell siren call of pain and suffering and humiliation.
"She wanted it, man, she asked for it." All I want to know is if she's OK. I'm not here for you, Bill. "I'm telling you, ask anyone. She was all over me and she told me to come with her." I just want to check on her. He was slowly walking towards me as I was slowly walking towards her. 10 feet from her and we were set to pass in the night. I was certain he'd walk past me and keep walking.
I didn't expect his fist in my ear. A man of that size and strength can usually cold cock a man of any size and put him down fast. Surprise is the only virtue in fighting, and if you can tell your opponent isn't prepared for your lashing, you can win over them before a real battle begins.
That was Bill's mistake. He had seen me coming, a short guy with little obvious muscular build, and he took a shot to my face in what most think is the weakest part. Lucky for me, I wasn't expecting it but my inner senses told me to be prepared. I was already compressing my muscles on the right side of my body, the side closest to Bill, when he struck.
His fist hurt, but I had already sprung to my left as I felt his arm extend. A microsecond later and I would have been down, and probably out. Instead, the scream of pain flooded into my ear and then converted to energy to spend as I twisted counterclockwise, away from Bill. Most people will lose a fight by offering exactly the maneuver the other person expects. By spinning counterclockwise away from him, I was able to gain rotational momentum. As my right hand came around, my eyes made contact with his and I saw the stunned look on his face mere seconds before I made contact with his neck.
It wasn't a pretty sound. A cracking fist and cracking cartilage can never be duplicated properly in Hollywood. It wasn't pain that caused him to fall back, it was a mouthful of blood that came down his lips.
He fell back, against an anonymous brick wall in this anonymous alley. I fell to a knee and checked on Jeri, who was still crying and saying she was sorry and she trying to fight him off. Her eye looked bad, the tops of her arms had obvious bruises the size of Bill's hands. She'd be OK, at least physically.
I turned to see if Bill was up when his foot made contact with the right side of my jaw. I still have the scar from the jagged metal band of his shoe, my jaw is still a little off-centered when it didn't heal properly.
I flew back, not expecting his attack. Usually people who cough up blood are down for the count. Bill was obviously high, I'd gathered, because his persistence didn't go along with expectations. My jaw was killing me and I felt the wet and warm burn of blood coming down my own face. As I bounced up from my back to my feet, Bill attempted to jump towards me to grab my head. I'm not muscular, but my strength is all core. I was able to easily dodge his bear hug attempt.
Every time he came at me, I dodged his hands and arms. He was yelling, grunting, screaming, swearing at me to keep still. I started to play games with him. "Keep still, you fag." Or what? Are you going to rape me, too? "I'm going to fucking kill you." You're going to fuck and kill me? That sounds like a two-fer.
As he stepped forward to me again, I put my hands backwards on the dumpster and launched both my feet up at his face. Considering he has 6 inches on me, I'm glad I was working out my traps which gave me added height and kicking power. As my heels made contact with his mouth, he fell straight backwards. A split second later, I was standing over him, he was spitting out a tooth or two.
His hands were not prone, they were grasping at the rocky road beneath him. His forearm muscles were tight, and it was clear that he was ready to get up and try to take me down again. I turned to the restaurant back door 5 feet away and saw 4 cement cinder blocks stacked on top of each other, cigarettes put out on the top block. I grabbed the top block, heaved it to my left and dropped it on Bill's chest before he found a way to pull himself up.
The cracking sounds of ribs only echoed in my head for a split second, replaced by sirens. As I looked down on him again, the cement block knocking the wind out of him, the red and blue strobes coming from behind my car were getting brighter on the alley walls, on his face, on Jeri's white tank top as she lay passed out.
I turned to face the police car, trapped by my own car. I put my hands on top of my head, my fingers laced together. The officers had called for backup, and not 30 seconds later another cop car was coming down the alley from the opposite direction. Only once they had their positions safe did they come out.
To be continued in part II.