Minneapolis, late January, sometime after 1:00am.
I’m unremarkable. Indistinct, soft spoken and unnoticeable. I live discreetly. A disposable fixture easily overlooked, I am the bolts on a highway sign – all but invisible. But not tonight.
A pretty young thing. Blonde. Wearing a red miniskirt. I never saw her face. She’s already bending over to pick up her I.D. when she yelps. The stranger behind her draws his hand from between her legs. Sidestepping her, he tries to walk past me without showing me his identification.
I know how this scene plays out. I’ve never seen this aggressive of a violation so closely before, but I’ve carded thousands of guys like him. Caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, he’s ashamed, and shame turns to anger. Shame is terrifying and painful. Anger is safe for him, something he’s familiar with. Likely, he’s used anger and rage to get what he wants thus far, so why stray from the winning formula?
He’s not coming in, he just doesn’t know it yet.
He stands five inches taller than me and wears, of course, an expensive black leather coat. I stand in his way, refusing to step aside. He’s tries to grab my shoulders to throw me aside but I grab the collar of his coat and yank as though this were some heart wrenching farewell, a last kiss that we both wanted to last.
Snapping my head forward, I pull him to me. His nose bursts beneath my skull.
Flailing, he’s swinging wildly…as though at a swarm of insects only he sees. His anger gives way to panic, before his knuckles connect with the bottom of my eye socket. And again.
My right hand basks in the light for a moment. I gesture to the blonde: a quizzical thumbs up…as though mimicking a gesture I’ve seen others make before but have never done so myself and I’m checking to make sure I’ve got it right. I think of hitchhiking. Catching a ride across the country on I-90, telling this story and so many like it as the driver and and I swap harrowing tales to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning .
Head lowered, he’s looking for an angle, but I smash his head into the door frame. The freezing steel frame rings sardonically, like a rigged carnival game beckoning rubes on the midway. Sliding off of the doorframe, he is held upright only by the unsuspecting mobs still awaiting access to the club.
Still fighting, we ride along the wall. We look like something out of a bygone era of semi-pro hockey; where aggression still draws despite the lack of talent. The arms and shoulders and hair extensions and jackets of those in line wash over us.
His head bounces off the wall, but the crowd doesn’t relent and we continue to trample through the throngs. They came to dance. They came to grow warm and to sober up before heading home. They came to hook up. They came to forget about who they think they are, who they think they have to be, or what they must be the rest of the week. They came to make their weekends last as long as possible.
And so did he…
Once one of them; standing in line…Now he’s the warning, the example, the lesson. He is what happens when we fail to yield, when we miss our exit. He is what happens when we don’t abide the signs of the world. The line was not expecting a brawl, but it happens all the time. Somehow, though, it is always novel. They’re transfixed by the violence. And the blood.
Silently they wager their own odds in the moment.
For the next week, this will be their story.