The egg yoke skyline was waning. A new night came barging in from the outer skirts of the city.
I’d been backpacking through the heartland of Europe for a few weeks with my high school buddies James, Nate, and Tim. An absorption of every last detail awaiting exploration. Beauty and mystique were enormously abundant, or so said myself. There were sacred legends all about whose presence flushed my nerves into convoluted anarchy.
I left the Free World, what many Americans habitually refer to as their homeland, so that I could find a personal freedom, whatever that is. Europe was a vague answer to my quest to become stripped of fettered chains. I’d sauntered through London encountering a unique conglomeration of people in all of its nooks and crannies that I peeked my curiosity into. I’d been in Paris for only that day. By the end of the night we were trippin’ on some Paris blues. A few hours before, the bouncer, dressed finesse, laughed at us outside the entrance of a trendy dance club Tim had read about in his Let’s Go Europe Guide. I guess black dickies, jeans, and sneakers didn’t fly.
Earlier in the day, three hostiles wouldn’t take our money. We even had made reservations for one of them three months in advance. But the fourth hostile was a procrastinated charm for us. Across the street from it was a 24-hour open bar. With hope the turning of the screw confirmed my belief that everything in life happens for a reason. Liquidation, lost, found, dry.
Later that night, we swayed in all directions weaving off the sidewalk to the street, process, then repeat. Our drunken collective came to a group consensus to indulge our livers in the luxury of having a final drink for the night. The 24-hour bar was not busy, the only lit up hang out near our crashing spot we paid fifteen U.S. dollars a piece in Francs for. We all trudged in treating ourselves to a particular brand of beer that was native to Amsterdam. A possessor of eerie alcohol percentage. It reminded me of the European version of malt liquor. All Star Liquor on Figgeroa in Altadena supplied my juvenile friends and I countless drunken adventures throughout our teenage years. Drunken 40oz. liberty. The city of lights was a gracious host that night for the clouded mind, an entity that’s unbelievably hammered.
We ignorantly reclined in the uncomfortable chairs at a table on the outside porch of the bar.
Nate and Tim were on the verge of unconsciousness. But James and I decided to live a little longer that night. After we had finished our cans of brew I went back inside to buy two more. As I entered the bar, a man followed briskly behind me to the counter where the bartender slouched over. The Parisian bartender gave the man a glass of cognac. He did not look up as he slid the drink over the counter. He kept reading his magazine. A cluster of naked bodies entangled and connected together were pictured on the cover. I asked politely if I could purchase two more of those lovely Dutch concoctions. The bartender followed procedure with me, the next in line.
The man hadn’t caught my attention at first glance. But what would happen in the next five minutes has left an irreversible impression on me that I highly doubt will ever be lost. Like a live Hendrix guitar solo. Eternal through origin and death. Originated at this bar on a corner in Paris nobody would think twice about. It was that bizarre and extraordinary.
Right when the man took hold of his glass he began yelling at the bartender in peculiar tongue of French. I leaned against the counter adjacent to the two men quarreling, in awe of a language spoken quite differently by both men. And my listening comprehension did not extend beyond the understanding of their difference. The man was obviously high as a kite. And he flung the glass of cognac he had been holding at the bartender’s face. A split-second later a gigantic German Shepard flew out of a hidden room from down the hall beyond the bathrooms at the back of the bar. He targeted the enraged customer. The dog fluidly hunted down his prey, a man desperate for an escape. On this Paris street corner the rabid wolf tore into this man’s flesh maliciously. James and I stared at this brutal beating with inhibited amusement, each alone and foreign midst vacated premises. It was an awesome picture show for the tired beer goggles to witness. Only my frightful hangover the next day allowed me to fully appreciate something so grandeur. Soon after, a great big, bald man stormed out from the hidden room, whistling at a proficiently loud volume. The beast automatically withdrew from the enemy. Known as Cue Ball on the streets of Paris. He ferociously engulfed the weakened enemy with another bout of flurry. They were a tag team. Man and dog against a man. Cue Ball and Wolf against a man.
The summer before, I had worked construction. One of my laborious jobs was to break concrete with a jackhammer. This man that wailed on his exhausted opponent would have been remarkably talented at the art of the jackhammer. In fact, that is where I believe this unknown art is born.
Blood covered the cement floor. There lay a man drifting along in a dreamy current. What that man saw thereafter, maybe he could not even tell others in the years ahead hastily pursuing him. Nobody but us bothered to notice what had just taken place. It happened too quick, without forewarning of what wrath the Cue Ball’s fistful strength could unleash. It must have been four, maybe five tops, blows. It occurred in a blink of an eye. A drunken eye may call it a dream. It speedily withdrew from the street corner under the iridescence and vocal calamity. All of it.
The first emotion that I felt was relief that I was not that man. Then, I felt pity for him, even if he had truly deserved the beating. I scratched a curious itch and quickly went to the bartender to order another drink as an ode to this experience. Maybe pour a little out. Not puke.
Bring spirit to the occasion. I asked him while slurring my words, “What-er lies in-a room ova there mista bah-tenda?”
“Police,” he curtly replied in a tone implying that our conversation was through.
So I grasped my last drink of the night, a pint-size bottle of cheap red wine. My last thought before I drifted away into the vacant point of the black sea, was of tired anxiety to the coming of events another night in Paris would yield, imagining the German Shepard’s glossy dark brown eyes closing in on me. His teeth glow night.