They are all wrong(ed)

I saw father crying today. I went to mother to ask her why.

‘He cries for your brother,’ she said, ‘He cries, because your brother is not coming home.’

This made me cry.

‘Where is my brother, mother?’ I asked.

‘He is being held captive,’ she answered, as every other time. And as every other time, I did not understand.

‘But why?’ I asked.

‘Because he lived. He went with your uncle to do a desperate and terrible thing. Your uncle died, but your brother lived and thus was captured.’

Now I cried for my uncle, but still did not understand.

‘But mother,’ I pleaded, ‘Why did uncle do this thing?’

‘He believed he must do this terrible thing, because he believed it was the only thing he could do. He believed that with this desperate thing, others might see his cause. and through grief for him and for others, that they might change. He believed that with this terrible and hopeless thing, that our family and our friends might return home.’

For all her explanations, I understood even less.

‘But mother, aren’t we home already?’

‘This is not our home, child. This is our refuge.’

‘But mother, I was born here. If this is not our home, where is it?’

‘It is near here, child. And it is in our past.’

‘But if it is near, why do we not go?’

‘Because we can not. We are being kept from returning.’

I began to understand.

‘Is this why uncle did this thing? Because we may not return?’

‘Yes, child,’ mother began to cry, ‘That is why they did this terrible, desperate and hopeless thing.’

‘But mother, if this thing would let us return home, why do you cry?’

I felt I understood more, but also nothing about the tears on mine and mother’s face.

‘Because, child. Our home is not our home anymore.’

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Fear, friends and fighting

Last Friday night at around 2.30am, after a busy night working at the art-house movie theatre / restaurant that employs me, three colleagues of mine (R, S and T) and I were standing outside my work, talking and getting ready to go home. A scooter with two people on it came riding up to us, slowed down and proceeded onwards, having to deviate slightly from a straight line. On it sat a big fat man and his slightly smaller, fat wife (I assume). He yelled something at us as he passed and thinking nothing of it, my colleague T called out ‘Sorry?’, not having understood the heavyset individual.

The man stopped, once again said something unintelligible and T repeated himself. The man then backed up on his scooter, stood next to T and emphatically told him he was in the way and asked if T had a problem. T denied, and explained that he had only misunderstood him, thus saying sorry more as a question.

However, the man seemed to take T’s ‘Sorry?’, and anything else he said, more as a challenge. He grabbed T, proved himself not only jiggly, but very drunk as well, and pulled him in, once again angrily stating that we were in the way and that we should have moved. T explained himself once again, as tension became palpable within the group. The man had become angry and pushed T away, causing him to trip up on my wheel.

Most likely due to no conscious effort of his own, the calorically challenged man let the ensuing chorus of protests and call to behave pass him by and seemed to gather more and more anger from the situation. ‘He wants to fight. That’s it, he wants to fight,’ he said, failing to convey whether his words were intended for his bundled up, spherical wife, or to verbalize his thoughts before they would be inevitably lost to him.

Thankfully his wife said ‘No he doesn’t’ and for the same unfathomable reasons to get off, the man once again applied an inordinate amount of pressure to the shock-absorbers on his scooter and rode away, taking our wishes for a drunken accident with him.

During this entire event I experienced a cascade of thoughts and emotions, strongly influenced by natural paranoia, academic education in psychology, action movies and 13 years of martial arts training.

The belligerent slab of flesh impressed on me the assessment of a man who has led a less than exemplary life, rife with situational setbacks and behavioural difficulties, nurturing a natural lack of impulse and temper control and a predisposition for aggression into a large, cantankerous, alcohol abusing midnight scooter driver. His wilful misinterpretation of T’s words (however few they were), as well as his readiness and indeed willingness to fight led me to believe that this man, who must rightly pay road maintenance tax, must have a good measure of experience with street fighting, even if it’s simply due to others taking umbrage with his behaviour. Additionally, his girth, coupled with his state of inebriation, would make for a trying encounter to say the least if it would have come to blows.

At the moment the man backed up, I immediately became tense. When he stood next to T, I noticed myself flexing my fingers and loosening my bag and when he grabbed T I began to imagine the best ways to attack him; the best ways to cause the most damage in the least amount of time. Within moments I settled on a right elbow strike to the left temple, followed by a left open hand edge strike to the throat and a right dragon fist (middle knuckle extended) to the left eye. If still a standing threat, a turned in right snap kick to the left knee would bring him to the ground, where he could more easily be subdued with feet, knees and an uncomfortably placed bicycle. Then I would call the police. I had confidence in this plan.

However, I also had fear. I was not so much in shock, or afraid of the man attacking me, but afraid, because I thought I was really going to take serious action if the man became combative. The techniques described above, if performed properly, can be horribly damaging. Even if I would have come out of such a physical encounter without being hurt myself, I would have to deal with the aftermath of my own actions.

A strange sense of satisfaction came over me as well. The comparatively uneventful happening came to a close and our little group broke up after a few shared moments of stupefied confusion. On my solitary bike ride home I mulled over what did and didn’t happen. I remain uncertain as to how I would have fared. And though most of me is perfectly happy with the idea that I’ll never find out, part of me wanted it to happen, to satiate my anger and aggression, but also out of curiosity. Would I have done well? Would I have frozen or failed? It’s always easier to ascend the podium of victory in the mind, where the pedestal of triumph is built of speculation. Thus, if I am to focus solely on what happened, even if most of it was immaterial, I will take away a feeling of pride for being ready to fight on behalf of a friend.