Right off from the start, I knew that Rory and I would not be friends. If the bluff macho sort of way he related to everything was not enough, it was his referring to me as beanpole in a semi-sarcastic tone of voice. when I told him to stop calling me that, he just smiled and said, ” sure…beanpole!”
My friends suggested that getting used to Rory would take a period of adjustment; he got along with them just fine. But as is often the case, people are worse when inebriated, and Rory turns out to be a mean drunk. His natural sarcasm turned bitter and biting, and I was the target frequently.
It was not the way of my friends to intervene. They just figured that the two of us would work it out. In a way, I guess we did. One night at the Harvard Gardens, he began to imitate my singing style. His out-of-tune caterwaul was not close to my voice. And while I did not precisely lilt my tunes out, I didn’t bray. So that was it. I got up in a flash, almost overturning the table full of beers. Everyone seemed surprised, but most certainly Rory – who never suspected that I’d turn angry. “Outback. Now.” I told him as I paced to the back, past the restrooms, and out the back door into an alleyway.
Rory came out, all apologetic, and assured me that he’d learned his lesson and would be respectful – “Hey, the next round is on me, Wes!” Willing to be a peacemaker, I shook his hand and turned to go back into the bar. I was about to comment when I felt him grab me from behind. The rest proceeded just as though I was on the mats at the dojo.
I went slack, letting body weight drag down my attacker, left heel drove into his instep, and the shock allowed me to use the body drop to free my arms. Then, a pivot. I grabbed his shirt, and over my hip, he flew to land in a puddle. We were outside the Harvard Gardens rear door, and the pool was ripe with nasty solid and liquid waste. He’d need more than a shower and cologne to smell clean after that.
Bending over, I relieved him of the knife he was struggling to get out. Finally, I kicked that away. The steady stream of obscenities he’d been mouthing stopped, and he said, “look, you win, I lost. Let me up, and I’ll buy you a round.” I laughed so hard I almost didn’t follow up with the kick to the ribs; sensei hadn’t taught me that. It was all old Washington Heights, New York City. Now he was gasping, and I relieved him of his wallet. Taking his money first, I carefully deposited his ID and driver’s license on top of what looked like a wet turd. Then, reflecting for a second, I scattered the remaining contents into the pools of liquid he was lying in. I left him huddled there as I marched back into the barroom. “thanks for the offer, I’ll make sure that I buy one for the house on you.”
The trouble with being only a hundred and thirty pounds when you are five-ten is that you automatically look like a victim. But, of course, nobody suspects that that got figured out a long time ago—three and a half years spent in and out of the dojo twice a week works wonders. Sensei would have called me on the kick, but what sensei hadn’t taught me about street fighting, I’d learned in the Heights.
Thing are not always as they appear. Judging people on the superficial is not just wrong. It can be dangerous.