Now Nacho Libre was cracking my skull with everything he had — and he had the salt shakers. This is what happens when you put the entrance to a nightclub inside a restaurant — my noggin was getting both tenderized and lightly seasoned. I turned and tackled Nacho for a second time.
Then the girls got involved. One of them grabbed a fork and began to stab at me. I assumed she wanted to see if I was as juicy and tender as I looked. Because of either chivalry or a concussion, all I did was grab her hand. Of all the times not to be Ike Turner. I escaped behind Nacho, wrapped my arms around him and tripped him to the ground.
TAP TAP TAP on my skull. Jesus, who is it now? The other chick smacked me as hard as she could with her high heels. Specifically, the points of the high heels. I let her continue. My hands were too full to stop it.
I saw Freddy’s body bullet into the fight. Glad someone finally told him I was brawling. Freddy pummeled his way behind Bolo and began to choke him. Bolo picked a fork off the nearest table and I saw the prongs turn towards Freddy. Looked like Bolo wanted to eat Asian tonight. I dove off Nacho and latched onto the fork until Bolo dropped it.
Diners scrambled to clear their booths as we fought through the main aisle of the restaurant and towards the door. It was slow going. I had already taken close to thirty punches to the back and top of my head. Neither Freddy nor I had thrown a punch yet. I don’t know what Freddy’s excuse was. But, for my part, I was irrationally determined to keep grappling — what violence expert Rory Miller calls a Behavioral Loop, where I just couldn’t stop doing the same moves over and over again. It didn’t help that I was exhausted. As I tackled Nacho to the ground, I took a second and rested my head on his chest. My eyes closed and I suddenly couldn’t think of a good reason to open them.
Fortunately, Bolo rained fists down on me, rattling enough of my teeth to keep me awake. So I kept fighting. Blood streamed down my face — the high heels had opened up a nice gash by my hairline. It was all I could do to wipe the blood from my eyes before trying another submission.
I heard a roar. Someone tackled all of us and began to drive us down the aisle. Matt was a waiter. More importantly, he was a Thai Boxer. He had been upstairs doing room service when the fight started. Now, he gave us just the push we needed. Freddy and I shoved the whole scrum down the steps into the valet stand. Matt was so excited for action, he cinched a chokehold on Bolo while Freddy mounted the guy and finally unleashed all the strikes he’d been holding back on. It was like taking a polo mallet to a beanbag.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t sit back and watch. Nacho was in front of me. His fist chambered back in slow motion. I lurched towards him. Somewhere, in the deadened recesses of my concussed brain, I finally let Congress sign the declaration of war. I threw a right cross with everything I had. It landed squarely on Nacho’s chin and —
Nacho disappeared in front of me. Where the hell did he go? I looked down.
Nacho was stretched out on the macadam. Hell yeah. I’d had sex twice the night before. This was better.
Nacho’s girlfriend — the one with the high heels — appeared in front of me, begging me to stop. “Please, please, please,” she held my hands as I walked her backwards towards the sidewalk.
I watched her scrape Nacho off the asphalt. “Don’t set foot on this property again,” I panted.
Hugging Nacho tightly, she led him stumbling down Sunset. Embracing the better part of valor, Bolo and his girl lurched after them, though they did pause to scream at us. I tried to think of something witty and Bruce Willis-ish to say. Nothing came out. It was all my brain could do to keep me from curling up on the sidewalk and taking a serious nap.
I turned around. The entire restaurant had emptied onto the steps. The valets stared at us. Matt grinned. He loved getting the chance to fight. Of course he did — he didn’t have to do it every night.
I slapped his hand. “Good looking out, bro.”
Matt shrugged. “Sorry I missed most of it.”
Freddy looked me over. “Damn dude, we gotta get you checked out.”
Screams and shouts echoed off the teal and white walls of Cedars-Sinai Hospital and into my little ER waiting room. It must have been a busy Monday all over Hollywood. Two detectives entered, their blazers adorned with LA County Sheriff’s stars. They had already talked to Freddy and gotten tons of eyewitness accounts from the club. I was just the last box they had to checkmark.
“How are you doing?” they asked.
Surprisingly well. Especially once the CAT Scan came back negative. Of course, I had been a non-stop stream of bullshit and jokes ever since the paramedics had put me on a stretcher. I didn’t want anyone thinking I had lost my sense of humor. Or my balls. “We’re sorry this happened.” The detectives weren’t smiling. “They were our guys.” Nacho and Bolo were Sheriff deputies? “Well, sort of. They’re in the Academy.” They smirked. “Well, they were in the Academy.” My grin got a little wider. It was nice to know that, no matter what had happened to me, this night was going to suck a whole lot more for them.
Now that we were all buddies, one of the detectives sat down next to me. “Just between us…what the hell happened to that one guy?” He described Bolo. “His eye is on the side of his head. He looks like a goddamn Martian.” Ha ha. Freddy must have worked Bolo’s eye socket to the point that his eyeball slid out. Oops.
I was glad I wasn’t big enough for it not to delight me a little.
My shower didn’t feel as good as I thought it would. The water streamed down my skull and stung all along the stitches on my hairline.
“Can I come in?” Her leg was already sliding inside the tub, her toes flexing towards the water.
I watched as she wedged herself next to me in the shower. Droplets flecked onto her tanned shoulders, the blond baby hairs on her arms, the white part of her left tit. She blinked at me through her mascara-smudged eyes.
I barely could look at her. I was bleeding confidence. Yeah, yeah, I told myself that I had nothing to lose confidence about – I had been outnumbered, I had made a defensible decision to grapple instead of brawl and, hey, I had won — but I was already dreading going back to the Sunset Strip. I worked in an environment where I had to put my hands on someone every night. Do that long enough and it gets real hard to walk away untouched. And for what? We weren’t cops or corrections officers or soldiers or feds. We were just check marks on a liability insurance policy. Nobody on the Strip was bouncing for God or country. I mean, this wasn’t Afghanistan. I wasn’t hunting bad guys in the Hindu Kush like a lot of my old classmates were. I was just making $13/hr to deal with the fallout from drunk people’s fantasies. It was so damn meaningless.
Or was it?
I felt her warm, naked ass press against me as the hot water spilled over us. The hot women and the cool job. The sex and the drama. It was the life that I’d wanted. It was a life I owed to the club. Sure, I could leave it all behind, but that felt too much like failure and I’d failed enough in LA already. LA owed me. LA was like a beautiful painting that I could only see afterhours through the museum window. It was like a Firebird blasting some catchy tune until the light turns green and it speeds off, leaving me stuck with Katy Perry in my head the rest of the day. LA had promised me a lot and it had paid off very very little. I wasn’t leaving until I had collected. I wasn’t leaving until LA finished remaking me into someone better than who I was when I got here.
So I did something I hadn’t done since I first got to LA. I prayed. I prayed for just enough strength, stamina and health to stay a little while longer in the black lights and wallow in the adrenaline bath. I hoped God was cool with it. But even if He wasn’t, I didn’t care. After all, if He had been doing His job, I should have been a goddamn movie star by now.