Dear guy in the spiked leather jacket,
I’m sorry if my face hurt your fist.
I’m sure if it did, you feel better by now. This was at that Pixies concert in 1991. At the Ritz, on 54th Street.
As I suppose we all do, I like to think of myself as being a good person at heart. But remembering back to certain times in my life-choices I made, what I must have looked like, how I must have affected people around me-I shudder. It was not always a pretty picture. The video plays on the screen in my mind, and I think, Jesus, that was me doing those things? Not Puck from Real World San Francisco? Someone should have just punched me in the face.
That night, you did.
We were up in the balcony bar. Some friends and I had driven down from college to see the show, which was going on downstairs. I was very, very drunk. You were much taller than me and standing where I wanted to be standing, at the railing with a good view of the stage. I most vividly remember the single metal spike sticking out of the back of your leather jacket, right in the middle, which was right at my eye level, when I was pushing against you, with a drink in each hand. It’s likely that I spilled some of one or both of those drinks on you. I remember thinking that it seemed strange for a jacket to have just one spike sticking out of the middle like that. How uncomfortable it would be to for you to sit down and lean back in a chair. (And that’s not even taking into consideration the upholstery of the chairs you might be sitting on. But you probably didn’t take things like that into consideration much. You didn’t seem like you would.) A better design, I thought, if one must have metal spikes sticking out of a leather jacket, would be a larger swath of spikes, tightly arranged, with little space in between the spikes, so that the pressure of impact might be spread out across a solid field of points-as exemplified when a yogi is able to sleep on a bed of nails.
Anyway, I was eye-level with this oddly situated single spike for a number of minutes as I leaned into you, hoping that you’d move, so I could get closer to the balcony railing and better see the Pixies play “Wave of Mutilation.” You turned around and warned me numerous times to stop pushing. “Fuck you,” I remember saying, “I’m just trying to see.” As if I was justified in displacing someone else in order to do so. I remember you pointing your finger at me, and I remember laughing and saying “Fuck you” again and calling you an asshole, too. As if I should be able to show up late, already well loaded, to a sold-out concert, go to the bar to get more drinks and spill them on people, and then expect the crowd to part like the Red Sea so I can watch from the vantage point of my choosing. As if there would be no repercussions from cursing into the face of someone so much larger than myself.
By way of explanation, but not excuse, I’ll tell you that my girlfriend of two years had broken up with me two weeks before that night. I’d been drinking extra heavily since then, and repeatedly putting myself into dangerous situations. The weekend before, visiting a friend’s friend at Harvard, I was forcibly removed from, and thrown down the steps at, the stately premises of The Owl. I think for refusing to relinquish the pool table after losing, and insulting one of the members’ skill at windsurfing. He was a competitive windsurfer. I know very little about windsurfing. All of this is stupid and to say that I was obviously, if only somewhat consciously, trying to get myself beaten up. (In my most ridiculous fantasies, I am the broken-nosed, repeatedly pummeled, but ever-still wry and charming Gabriel Byrne in Miller’s Crossing.)
Mission accomplished, moments after you and I met. It took just a few seconds. Blurry seconds. And I was too drunk for it to hurt very much. Your first punch hit me in the stomach. As I was bent over, wondering what it was that was happening, successive punches hit my ears and the back of my head. Eventually, you landed one square in my face. You are a good puncher!
Then you ran off. (To enjoy, I sincerely hope, the rest of the show in peace. Or, well, a blaring-guitar, screaming-Pixies, rock-concert sort of peace.) I was found by a security guard and escorted out of the building. I don’t remember exactly, but it’s likely I told him to fuck off, too. And he probably didn’t want me bleeding all over everyone from the cut in the fast-swelling-and-blackening flesh just below my right eye.
I still have the scar. It reminds me how badly I deserved it.