I’d done drinks before dinner, then dinner with drinks, and was at the 3rd spot of the night for just drinks. It was one of those bars I love, a place that looks like the kinda dive in which you might find a tranny offering blow jobs in the bathroom for $20 but where you won’t actually find that. It was dark and not packed to capacity with Ed Hardy sporting douchebags. The bartender, a younger black guy, was friendly and flirty and prone to heavy handed pours. In short, it was kinda perfect.
Somewhere after my
“I’m La,” I said, smirking at him being enraptured with my rack. “And WHO ARE YOU?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Josh.”
“No, the pleasure is all mine. Definitely.” He stood and pulled out my chair for me as I sat the drinks gently down on the table with the reverence they deserved.
Josh, who was drunker than all the drunk people in the bar combined, was a sweetheart. He was not even almost like your typical drunk frat boy, all leering and overtly sexual. He was charming as hell, trying hard to keep up with conversation, despite being so intoxicated his eyelids were at half-mast. He was even trying his damndest to look me in the face, despite my boobs being out. It was adorable, if futile. For about 20 minutes, we sat chatting, finding out what they were celebrating, laughing and drinking. The throng of people he came with decided to move on to another bar. They all filed out as he lingered behind flirting and smiling his easy smile. Finally, he gathered himself and the beer he’d brought in with him and meandered towards the door after his friends that were already on their way to the bus.
And that’s when all hell broke loose.
Once he stepped outside the door, before the door could swing closed behind him, two young, Hispanic guys who had been sitting at the table closest to the door jumped him, one slapping him in the face, and him punching the hell out of him before the other came up behind him knocking him down before he even realized what was happening. At that point, they were punching him, kicking him, slamming his head into the brick siding of the bar and the concrete while cursing and hurling racially charged insults at him in Spanglish. People were trying to break it up, but in the meantime one of the girls the Hispanic dudes had been with came over and got in a few kicks too. By this time, Josh’s friends had realized what was going on, and had doubled back to the fight. Josh’s twin brother broke up the fight, trying to calm tempers and get everyone separated.
The fight lasted barely three minutes though it felt like forever.
They got Josh back inside, and sat him in a chair, checking his injuries. His handsome face was bloodied; his lip split and eye swelling, and what might have been a broken nose. He was angry but more so incredulous. Everyone was asking the same question, “What the fuck happened?”
No one had an answer.
The older meth faced bartender, messy bitch that she was, was trying to convince us that Josh had started a fight with the Hispanic guys.
“No, he didn’t,” I said to her. “He literally sat down at our table as soon as they walked in and sat there talking to me until they left.”
“No, he didn’t! He was hitting on one of their girls. And that couple over there,” she said gesturing to the back of the bar, “said he bumped into them.”
“NO HE DIDN’T. I JUST TOLD YOU he sat right here with me the entire time he was here.”
“No, he wasn’t!”
“Bitch, how the fuck you gonna tell me?”
I can’t even pretend I wasn’t furious. A nice, chill night had just interrupted into unnecessary violence, its victim someone who hadn’t done anything to deserve it.
“Well, he musta did something. He never shoulda messed with them.”
“Bitch, SHUT THE FUCK UP.”
And with that she moseyed on back behind the bar.
By then, they’d retreated back to the bus, hopefully to get Josh to a hospital and the Hispanic kids had fled. I sat back down, feeling bad for him, and furious that the night was over. The air was even different, charged with the energy of anxiety and fear that maybe trouble would come back looking to finish what had been started. The bartender came back over to our group.
“Do you guys know what happened?” he asked.
“They just jumped on him when he walked out. He didn’t do anything. He hadn’t said a word.”
“Wow. That’s so crazy. He was really messed up.”
“And for no reason.”
“But you know, it happens a lot up here now. With all this developing going on in The Heights, a lot of neighborhoods are being taken over. And they don’t like it. They clash with a lot of the people who come up here to drink and party. As far as they’re concerned, this is still their neighborhood. And we’re trespassing.”
With that, he walked away to close my tab.
Once I got home, still shaking my head, I finally put my finger on what had me so upset.
It doesn’t happen often (unless I am wearing my hair curly, which is another story for another day) but here, in the heart of the bible belt, in what might be one of the most liberal cities in the state, but is still southern nonetheless, it is rare for a white guy to approach a black girl. It is even rarer for him to genuinely find her attractive, rather than approach her out of some misplaced desire to interact with someone “exotic.” But here was a guy, by all indications not a douchebag, who had approached a table of black and brown girls kindly, respectfully, even while dead drunk. Who spoke to us like people, not possessions or conquests, who was raised to be chivalrous, regardless of race, enough to pull out a chair, even as he grasped a beer in the other hand. Who’d spent almost half an hour talking to us without pretense or prejudice just because “my smile made him smile.”
And I wondered if he would ever be able to do that again.
If he could ever again walk into a crowd mixed with faces of color and not feel the anxiety of wondering if he might, once again, be attacked for no reason at all. If he could see a black or brown girl he found pretty and feel comfortable approaching her to tell her she was beautiful, without the demons of this night whispering in his ear.
I would hope, idealistically, objectively, maybe foolishly, that he could. That he would be able to recognize that the unprovoked violence of a couple of thugs had nothing to do with an entire race of people, even if their motivation was racial. I clearly had not spent enough time with him to appropriately judge, and had only my own gut feelings to go off of, but he seemed the type that could.
But if he couldn’t ever again, I wondered too if, despite believing wholeheartedly that no one person is or should be responsible for representing an entire race to anyone, if, on a purely human level, I could really blame him.