The Park

It’s been forever since I’ve been into a fistfight. That’s no coincidence; I may be a little quick on the draw at times but all things considered I am quite the pacifist, and prefer to get along with people. To compensate, I playfight through means like capoeira and kicking the shit out of road cases at work. But before I want to harm other people, I need to be pushed hard.

First things first: The last five days I’ve been working voluntarily for a local festival named “Dansen in ‘t Park”, or Dancing in the Park (th’ park?) in English. Because of my job, motivation and know-how, I’ve been a good contribution (called indispensable, mind you) to the whole event since the very beginning three years ago.

I’ve had several flashbacks from last year, when I was hardly capable of living with myself and I embraced this opportunity with both arms, using it as my distraction and link with humanity. In a place where social interaction was inevitable, it forced me to open up to it and accept its positive influence on my mindset.
I miss the days when everything had monumental value. A simple conversation with a cute individual not just made my day, but the rest of the week as well. Safe to say, despite the boredom when things went according to plan, the impact on my life could not be overestimated.

Of course, I’ve changed to a different person since then, and the experience this year bordered that of a “normal” volunteer. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the festival immensely, despite short nights and often tedious work. Here’s a few highlights:

  • Awkward Conversation. I was on bar duty with two women, who were quite a bit more skilled at the art of conversation than I was. It was quiet for a few moments before one of them said out of the blue, “You know, I think Maarten is a pretty handsome boy.” They exchanged agreeing words while I gave her a perplexed stare, and continued, “Yes, and have you seen his girlfriend? She’s gorgeous. But, she’s taken, so we’re not allowed to touch her.” I literally fell without words at that stage, forced to undergo their giggle fit. I knew how dumb I looked, but couldn’t manage to laugh at myself.
  • Wu Shu. Or, for the uninformed, a dance-influenced style of Kung Fu. We were introduced to the style of the snake, the monkey, the praying mantis and the tiger, followed by drunken boxing. Since it was the first initiation of the day and interest was limited, there were only five of us on the huge dance floor, imitating forms in regular white lotus style and jumping and rolling around like monkeys on acid. One guy in particular who obviously wasn’t used to following classes, complained about the difficulty of the orientation (our teacher was facing us, making things more complicated) and the pressing heat of the sun. She, a Kung Fu student herself, basically told him to suck it up and live with it. A woman to my liking.
  • Taiko. It’s a drumming style, originated in Japan, that has the philosophy that the rhythm is  merely an effect of movement and breathing techniques. Basically, you make a narrowly choreographed series of gestures, and there just happens to be a drum in front of you. It takes a damn lot of concentration to get your movements and balance right, let alone your rhythm synchronized. But the 15 of us pounding away on massive drums in a park under the sun, made quite an impression on the onlookers and ourselves.
  • Fist Fight, and here is what I was getting to.

Picture me this: A live band just got off stage and we are cleaning up while the party continues. A weird guy that has been causing trouble all day already, jumps up on stage and begins to dance on the cables we are coiling. My colleague (Let’s name him Bob) politely asks to leave, and is bullied back by a close stare and some threatening words. I see this from a distance, but nothing more happens: the guy continues to do his little moves on our work.
Later on I join in to help him, and we come to the point where we can’t continue without him leaving. I let Bob do the talking because I am too annoyed to be very friendly, and once again he is harassed, this time physically as well. I lose my patience and yell from my side of the stage, “Will you piss off please? We’re trying to work.”

A head bigger than me, he comes to stare me down. “Or else what?” To emphasize, he gives me a shove. I don’t like those any more than tumbling backwards off stage, so I grab his retreating wrists to keep my balance and push him back in return. Before I know it, I’m dodging fists and bracing myself because he’s charging forward. Bob grabs him from behind, and the both of us stop him in his tracks while I go through a “Ready, Set, Aim” routine and punch him square in the face. In order to get to me effectively, he has to lose Bob first, so turns around and tries to throw him back against the backwall.

There is no wall. There is only a poorly secured skin, which gives easily and allows for both men to tumble off. Bob lands on his knees on the coarse asphalt, grabbed by the hair of the attacker and held down to receive a beating. Seeing this, I jump after them and push the guy down, setting my knee in his plexus and threatening to beat him to death if he doesn’t let go of my friend. To my surprise, he just barks, “Go on! Beat me, then! Do you even know who I am?” I really didn’t care, and told him that. After 5 minutes of negotiating and promising he could dance when the stage was empty (“Why didn’t you tell me from the beginning?”) he let go and we each went our separate ways. Bob with our colleagues, me on stage coiling cables, and the freak someplace else.

Little did I know, Bob was showing his bleeding legs to our friends, one of which, much stronger than he looks, went “I’ll fucking kill him”.
When I caught that same attacker coming up the steps once again, I braced myself for another fight. But he didn’t come for that, he came to apologize. Although that struck me as odd, I was about to tell him to forget about it when I noticed movement behind him. That friend of before (Let’s call him um, Fred) grabbed him and hurled him off stage. If I knew how aggressive he could be, I may had seen that coming, but at the moment I was too baffled to do much as Fred jumped down and proceeded to throw him around. It took four of us to pull them apart, repeatedly because that idiot kept trying to climb back on time and time again, with Fred dragging him back.

By now we had gathered a small collection of tourists, who couldn’t help share their opinions on how uncivilized we were being. It lasted until the police was mentioned, at which point the mental case suddenly legged it.

Looking back, I have mixed feelings. First of all, I think I stood my ground well. I didn’t take a single hit and managed to give him one square in the jaw, although probably unnecessary.
On the other hand, although in my opinion I was defending myself, I really wasn’t in any kind of position to get into a fight. As part of the organization, I should have given a better example. Also, I may have wanted to listen a little better when he was going on about who he was, because as it turned out, he was the adoptive son of one of the organizers, a warm and gentle man.
I never got the chance to apologize. How was I supposed to bring it up, anyway? Sorry for beating back when your son attacked me? I heard that I was not the first, and he had spent a long time in an institution, already. That is why he ran when he heard about the police: he didn’t want to go back there.

Fuck him. If he hasn’t gotten himself killed by now, I hope he sits where he belongs. In the nuthouse, is my guess.

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