A Night Near 23rd Street

I sat in a small room with a nurse and a man standing in front of me with a white jacket and a stethoscope around his neck. The office was like any office inside a hospital or institution. There was a desk in the middle of the room. There was a machine that takes blood pressure. There were small cardboard boxes with tongue depressors, plastic guards for the metal thermometer they stick in your mouth, and a box with rubber surgical gloves.
Overhead, the fluorescent lights hummed in the ceiling. Outside, I could hear the sounds of tones in the hallway, which followed by announcement that called for different doctors or nurses.
I was unsure how long I was in the waiting room and it was unclear how I arrived. All that surrounded me was so very white. All that was around me was white. The nurse was in white and so was the doctor. The ceiling was white. The walls were white. Everything was white—except for the policeman. His uniform was so incredibly blue, He was standing with his back to the wall. His arms folded across his chest as he stared down at me.

I had no memory of the night. I had no idea why there was a large gash in the back of my head. All I knew was the answer to the questions, which I had apparently been asking for several hours. Those questions were, “Whose blood is this,” and, “What day is it?”

The answers did not change throughout my time in the emergency room. The blood was mine and the night was Friday. The sting from my head slamming onto a hard tiled floor in a downtown diner become more apparent as I grew more aware of my surroundings.

It had been a long time since I woke up someplace without any idea of why or how.
“I must have been drinking,” I thought to myself.
“This must be a blackout,” I thought.

Looking up at the policeman, I began to apologize.
“I never drink,” I said.
Nervously, I told the policeman, “Whatever I did, I’m really sorry.”

The policeman shrugged his shoulders and let out a laugh. He lowered himself down to me at the chair. The cop placed his hand on my shoulder as a reassuring gesture.

“You got jumped, kid” said the officer.
“Your buddy just left,” he told me.
“He’s the one that brought you in here.”

I asked, “Which buddy?”
“He didn’t give his name,” said the triage nurse as she checked my blood pressure.

“Well, what did he look like,” I asked.
“He was a big guy,” said the officer.
“He wore glasses too.”

Everything slowly began to come back to me. I was not jumped, or mugged, which is what the hospital and officer was led to believe. I was in a fight. And more accurately, I was on the losing end of a fight.

Pride is a strange thing. It is true when they say, “Pride comes before the fall.”

As I sat in the triage room waiting for a doctor to come and sew the back of my head together, the smell of the hospital sifted through my nose.  The pain in my head grew more and more intense—my blackened left eye became swollen, my long hair clumped with dried blood, and my pride shattered in countless pieces. This was my first moment of clarity.

We were in a diner after a late night run. No, I did not drink. This was not a blackout. In fact, this was a wake-up call. Three men sat in the booth on the opposite side of the diner. At first they howled amongst themselves. Then they said something to me as I passed their table to make my way to the bathroom.  Drunkenly loud, one of them shouted for me to give them a menu that was laying on an empty table.

When I returned to my table, my friend decided to toy with me.
“You gonna take that,” he asked.
“You should have told them, ‘What the fuck, you think I work here?’ and then you should’ve told the guy to go fuck his mother!”

My friend was only toying with me. However, little did he know, I was seething. The diner was not a big enough place that I could hide from my own humiliation. The three men were loudly carrying on. The dim lights carried a dim yellowish tint across the eatery with brownish tiled walls. There were only a few other customers, who like us, were coming in after a long night out.

Remembering a wooden shaft in the men’s room, I excused myself from the table. I went back into the men’s room, unscrewed the wooden shaft from a thick rubber toilet plunger, and slapped it against my palm.
This piece of wood would be painful if it slammed across someone’s head. And I intended to see exactly how much damage I could inflict with it. Sliding the wooden inside the sleeve of my jacket, I left the bathroom to see how much damage I could do.

I returned to the table where my friend sat.
“Something is gonna go down here,” he said.
He placed his hands on top of the table. “I better take care of this now.”

Standing at 6’ 4” and weighing a little more than 260lbs, my friend stood up and approached the three men sitting at the booth across the way. The manger nervously walked out to try and quiet the fight before the fight began. As my friend walked over, I walked around the other tables, coming up behind the one man who spoke the loudest. Unleashing the thick wooden rod from my sleeve, I gripped the wooden handle and slammed it down on the man’s head with all of my might.

I recall the sound of a loud angry snap. That was the wood breaking over the man’s head. Next thing I knew, the man whom I thought would go down did the exact opposite of what I hoped. He stood up. And when this man stood, I realized that he was the same size, if not bigger than my 6’4” 260lbs friend.
In my life, I have sensed trouble and danger before. On this night, however, the trouble I found was worse than I expected.

As he stood, my friend tussled with the other two men. Meanwhile, I was tackled to the ground. My head shot back and slammed against the floor in a loud and thunderous bang. Blood ran in a round dome, stretching a foot in any direction from the back of my skull.

The manager of the diner began screaming, “Get out! Get out!” in an angry voice with a loud, Greek accent.”

Later, my friend told me, “I thought you were dead when I saw you lying there on the floor.”
“They were screaming, ‘You’re going to jail,’ and I just told them, ‘We ain’t going anywhere,”  and I got us out of that place.”

If it were not for my friend, who by the way, shall remain nameless—I would have been locked up for sure. I would have been beaten worse and facing charges.

Pride is a strange thing. Had I not been lost in mine, perhaps I would have hear the three men apologizing for their behavior and offering to pay our bill. But no. I was mad. I was angry and set in my ways to inflict pain.

Every so often, I forget myself. I lose to my anger.

I lose to my pride

I lose to my ignorance

I lose to my arrogance

I lose to my fear and to my ego

Every so often, I run my hand across the back of my head. I feel the scar that remains as a reminder from that night.

Life has a way of teaching us lessons.
That’s what scars are for

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