Are You Sure You’re a Hero? – Spilled Blood and Spilled Beer
A lonely man will do some strange things, especially when he’s unemployed and has no responsibilities. He’ll stay up all night playing the same video game for 24 hours straight. He’ll re-watch all of his old high-school football games on VHS over and over again just to remember what it was like to feel important. He’ll even go to parties held by complete strangers. Of course, the man I’m describing is myself. He’s the me from six or seven years ago. He was a very unhappy guy. If you want to know more about him go read, Is That a Good Time? For the purposes of this story, it suffices to say that the former me was lonely, bored, and a little reckless. There were several nights during that time that I did strange and often very stupid things. This is the story of one such night.
This was the night I looked evil in the eye and came away bloodied and bothered.
At the time of this story, I was trying to put together a band and was therefore emailing back and forth with several musicians that I had found through classified sites like craigslist. While trying to arrange a jam session with a potential drummer, he mentioned that he wasn’t available on Thursday night because he was going to a party. A party sounded like fun, so feeling like I had nothing to lose, I asked him where it was.
“Oh, yeah? You want to come? You should. It should be pretty fun. There’s supposed to be a lot of people there,” he replied.
He gave me the address and directions to the apartment complex where the party was to be held. I figured it would be a big community party out in the parking lot with nearly everyone from the complex participating. That was the kind of thing we used to do when I was going to college in Cedar City. The fact that I hadn’t really seen any parties like that outside of a college environment didn’t even occur to me.
It was ridiculous how excited I was to go to this party. After not being very social for what seemed like ages, this was going to be awesome. I actually woke up early on Thursday morning because I was too excited to sleep. The more I take these mental trips into my past the more I realize just how strange I was then.
It was a hot day and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wear a tee shirt under my button-up. I would be very fortunate later, that I decided to wear the tee shirt.
Finally, the time arrived. I was shaking as I drove to the party. I was nervous with anticipation, plus I had drunk an entire pot of coffee earlier that day, plus my Jeep had a problem that made it shake like crazy. These combined to give me a shake trifecta that would have made Hakeem Olajuwan jealous.
I stopped at the gas station and picked up a 12-pack of Coors Light. I arrived at the apartment complex where I was expecting to find a big party. I was not seeing anything that looked like any kind of social gathering of any kind. It was dark, so I took another lap around the parking lot thinking that maybe I missed it somewhere. I finished the loop and still saw nothing. Thinking that maybe the party just turned out to be smaller than anticipated, I decided to knock on the door to the apartment listed on the address.
I grabbed my beer, walked up to the door, and knocked moderately five times.
A young woman answered the door.
“Hey,” She said.
I replied, “Hey, I’m looking for a party that’s supposed to be here.”
“Sure, come on in” she said as she stepped aside and motioned toward the couch.
As I walked toward the couch, I got my first glimpse at this “party.” There were two other girls there in addition to the one that answered the door. There was also one other guy there. The guy that told me about the party was nowhere to be found. Apparently, it was one of the girls’ birthday. I walked to the couch, sat down, and opened a beer. I introduced myself and told them how I heard about the party. They didn’t seem surprised, they said they had invited a lot of people. To this day, I don’t know if the drummer that told me about the party was playing a joke on me or not.
The people at the party introduced themselves to me, but I honestly can’t remember any of their names. I offered them beers, but they all had their own mixed drinks. It was slightly uncomfortable, but they were actually quite friendly.
I asked them if they were expecting any more people to show up and they said they had been inviting everybody, so, some of them would probably show up. I decided to stick around while I had a beer or two and see if the party started picking up.
Through some friendly conversation, I learned that the guy and one of the girls there were a couple. The guy and I actually had a lot in common. We were mostly talking about nerdy stuff like old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It wasn’t the party I was expecting, but it was actually turning out to be pretty fun. The birthday girl was even flirting with me pretty heavily, so we exchanged numbers.
The time went by pretty quickly and soon it was after midnight. Then there was a knock at the door.
The same girl that had let me in a couple hours earlier answered the door.
“You guys partying?” I heard a voice say.
“Yeah, come on in,” the girl said.
Two men came into the apartment.
The entire feeling in the room changed as soon as they came in.
It was like there suddenly wasn’t enough oxygen in the air. The first man was both small and short, but you could see from his tight shirt that he was in good shape. The second was tall and skinny and wore an old denim jacket. He was carrying a 12-pack of Budweiser in bottles. The first man sat in the chair just to my right, which was facing toward my left so that whoever sat there would be included in the semicircle around the coffee table. The second man sat in a chair by the door, behind the first man.
We all chatted for a while, I’m not really sure how long, then I got up to use the bathroom. While I was washing my hands, I heard voices starting to get louder out in the living room. Soon it was full on shouting. I opened the door and saw that everybody was standing up. The smaller man was pushing on the chest of the guy that was at the party when I got there.
“Come on, man! You said you’re big! Let’s go then!” The small man was yelling.
His taller friend was now standing right behind him with the box of beer still tucked under his arm.
The girls we’re yelling for the small man to stop and pleading with him to leave.
I walked out and got between the small man and my new acquaintance.
“Whoa, whoa,” I said, “What’s going on? What happened?”
There was a lot of shouting all at once, but from what I could make out, the smaller man was trying to look impressive to the girls and was telling them how he could take the other guy in a fight. The other guy jokingly said something along the lines of, “I don’t know, I’m pretty big.” The small man took this as a challenge and started calling-on the other guy. His friend joined him and that’s when I came in.
I was trying to calm the situation and explain to the small man that the other guy was just joking and that he didn’t want to fight.
“Well, I do!” yelled the small man.
We were looking each other right in the eyes and that’s when time seemed to start moving in slow motion.
If this were a Hollywood story, this would be the moment that I beat-up the two men, threw them out of the apartment, saved my new friends, and gave that young woman a happy birthday. I wish I could say that’s what happened, but this wasn’t the movies and I sure as hell wasn’t a hero.
As I stared into the small man’s eyes, I saw and felt pure evil. He was determined to create violence that night. There was absolutely no way that this was going to end peacefully.
You have a lot of thoughts when you’re locking eyes with the devil.
My brain spoke several sentences to me in the span of about half a second.
This fight is about to happen. You haven’t been in a real fight since Junior High, what are you going to do?
If you get hurt, you’re going to have to explain to everyone how it happened which means you’ll have to explain how you ended up at this party in the first place. Is that something you’re going to want to admit?
You’re in an apartment complex and people are yelling in the middle of the night. Surely one of the neighbors has called the cops by now. Are you going to get assault charges? Speaking of cops, you don’t know any of these people. Are you sure that none of these girls are underage? Do you really want to explain contributing charges?
Something hard just hit you in the shoulder, you should probably snap out of it and pay attention to what’s going on.
I came out of my trance of inner dialogue just in time to see the tall skinny man throwing the second full beer bottle at me. I was able to turn and deflect it with my left arm.
Listening to my inner thoughts and lost in fear, I yelled, “What the hell am I doing? I don’t even know any of you!”
I pushed my way past the two men and to the door. As I was leaving, I felt something very hard hit me in the back of the head. Just before the door closed, I heard another full bottle of beer crash and splatter against the wall.
I reached up to feel where I was hit. It felt wet. I looked at my fingers and even in the dim light, I could see the blood. I made my way to my car, took off my button-up and the tee shirt underneath. When I got in the car, I wadded-up my tee shirt and pressed it against the back of my head. The shame started to set in even as I turned the key.
Not knowing how badly I was injured, nor what would happen to the people I was leaving behind, I drove away from the apartment.
I needed some help. I needed someone I could trust. Using the headrest on the seat to momentary hold the tee shirt in place, I pulled out my phone and called my brother.
It had obviously been a beer bottle that had hit me. The curvature of the cut matches perfectly. The next day I called the birthday girl to apologize. It turns out that the police did show up right after I left and there was no real harm done. The birthday girl’s friend and the other guy were with the birthday girl when I called her. They didn’t seem to think that what I did was so bad, but it still haunts me. I have never felt so cowardly.
We all like to think that when we’re tested, we’ll rise to the occasion and come through. That night, I chickened out. I haven’t been tested like that since. I can only hope that if I ever am, I will learn from my failure. Next time, it will be different. Next time, I will be different. Next time, I’ll be auditioning for the role of hero.
Until next time, thanks for reading.
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