Chaos all around me. Pain? Distant; but it grows in strength. My vision blurs a tinted red as something warm drips into my left eye.
It’s my day off from working on the boats of Eilat and I’m having a few beers with my workmate, an Irish guy named Sean. Seemed a good idea to try and escape for a moment the Israeli marina hierarchy. Sean’s a tough wiry man; a hardened veteran of a long and contrasted life. He carries many a scar and many a story.
‘You boys can’t drink those in here!’
We have snuck into a club like mischievous junior high kids, with cans of lager from the shop.
‘Ah, c’mon man, we’re just finishing up.’
There is no argument. The club manager walks away without another word. Five long minutes pass before the bouncers approached. They are a large pack of beasts, two of them well over six feet tall and bursting the scales. They grab us without a sound and reach for our beers.
‘No way man!’ We hold our beers tight as they push us towards the exit.
‘Easy boys, easy, we’re going.’ The boys respond to the Irishman’s words by shoving him harder. Sean doesn’t like to be pushed.
‘Stop it now lads. Back off!’ We reach the outside and Sean is slammed to the ground. My head is grabbed, nose cracked and ear twisted. I fall back on the pavement.
Sean gets up, reaches for his spilled beer. A cigarette burns bright between his lips. The lads shove him again. Sean shoves back, pissed off now. Fists connect and Sean is back on the ground, three guys on him. I pull one guy off and a punch shakes the air across my chin. I dance aside. Sean scrambles to his feet, cigarette still burning between his clenched teeth.
Trust an Irishman not to lose his fag in a crisis.
There is a moment of calm in the centre of tension.
‘Alright, Aram.’ We breathe in the warm night air.
‘Ah shit!’ My earring is ripped out. I approach the bouncer who has returned to the door. NaÃ¯ve and oblivious to the pulsing hatred I emanate
‘Do you mind if I have a quick look for my earring?’ I wipe the blood from my nose across my hand and cheek. Sean shakes his head behind me. He sees the pumping stupidity of overloaded testosterone. I don’t.
‘Give it up man. Let’s go.’ he calls out.
The doorman has a shaved head with a meaty animal face. Dark, squinty, pig-like eyes twitch at me. His body his beefy and formless, like a soft lump of modeling clay. Old high school muscle covered in a trembling layer of gyrating fat. Too much vodka and kebabs it would seem. He shakes as though plugged into a low-wattage light socket and I notice the Russian accent when he responds respectfully to my query.
‘I come to Marina tomorrow. I kill you!’ He draws a menacing finger across his jugular.
A smile creeps without beckoning, impossible to stop, across my battered face.
‘Don’t be daft man. You go to prison for shit like that.’ I chuckle at the doorman’s threat.
His hand strikes for my throat.
Reflexive reaction, no conscious thought, I grasp his offending arm, spin his hand down and wrench his shoulder back with my free grip. He drops to the concrete and I fall on top of him. I hold him still, all gentle-like.
I have no time to register the movement to my right.
Wind whistles and a steel-toed boot connects abruptly with my face.
The big Israeli keeps pushing Sean backwards, keeping in his face, keeping him busy.
‘Piss off man! Get the fuck out like!’ Ducking sideways from the ox’s path it dawned on my friend what the bastard was trying to hide. It looked like a pack of hyenas at a kill, he told me after; five or six brutes circling about in a swarming frenzy. Their legs kicking and kicking. Sean couldn’t see me but knew from grim experience where I had to be.
No point wasting time on the smaller guys crossed Sean’s mind and he leapt at the largest bouncer’s head, a sheer bear of a Russian. He threw his arms around the tree-trunk neck and his fingers clawed for the eyes. He was spun off but the boys scattered from this wild imp of the devil.
The crazy Irishman hit the ground again; a solid punch to the kidneys put him down hard. These guys were ex-army it appeared, some experience, certainly a seething rage and animal temperament with one brain of pure violence between them.
‘This ain’t right lads. Don’t you see what you’re doing? What’s wrong with you?’ Sean cried out as the boots dug in.
Some random Israeli helps me to my feet. My left eye is blinded by hot blood pouring thick and fast. Police are arriving and Army-issued M-16’s start appearing everywhere.
‘We got the guy!’ One of the Israeli bystanders calls excitedly to me, ‘Police got him over here!’ I lurch forward, disorientated. One good eye looks for the pig-faced antagonist. The police have a man on the ground. His face is to the pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back. He isn’t struggling.
Sean turns his head up from the cement and looks at me with a weary smile.
‘Wrong guy, lads, wrong guy.” The young police officers remove Sean’s restraints with apologies. They help the Irishman to his feet. He winces standing upright. I turn and spot Pig-face grinning at me from the gathered crowd. I walk up to him and give him a smile through my half-visor of rouge.
‘That’s your boy.’ I state. The police take hold of him. Black, animal eyes sneer horrible looks in direct contrast to my crooked grin. A fat, knuckle-less finger traces another menacing line across a sagging neck. I manage to hold back my laughter this time. I’m not feeling especially jovial anymore.
‘You are a stupid, stupid man.’ I say calmly in response to his gesture and turn my back on him. All the other pounding boots remain faceless and I do not search for them.
My DNA splatters hectic Picasso designs across the fancy brickwork of the promenade.
Flashing ambulance lights appear in the distance. Paramedics pile Sean and me into the back of the emergency vehicle and we head to the hospital.
Nurses and doctors stand impotent whilst the plump secretary slowly peruses through my identification. My blood has dripped seven perfect circles onto the sterile white flooring when she finally speaks.
‘It will be five hundred shekels for the initial check up. After that we will see what needs to be done and give you the rest of the cost then.’
I shake my head in disbelief, ‘Forget it,’ I say, ‘Just give me a plaster.’ The large woman hesitates and glances up at the main doctor in the emergency room. He gives a slight nod of permission so she hands me a small adhesive bandage. ‘Can you stick it over this gash for me?’ I address the room but nobody moves. The head guy frowns no. ‘So where is the washroom then?’ Four fingers point down the hallway in perfect unison, like a matching troupe of white-clothed marionettes.
Sean tries to help me but can’t keep his hands steady enough; partly broken body and partly drunken head. We start laughing like fools through the drained excitement. The wound continues to seep blood through my eyebrow and into my visual cavity.
Finally I manage to smear the blood from my face with tissue paper and stick the plaster to the temporarily dry surface above my eye. The flesh is torn wide open and my face has begun to swell. Everything starts to ache with the lessening of adrenaline.
Stitches would be useful but I can’t afford it. Instead I tighten the Band-Aid and close the broken skin as seamless as I can. I squeeze the wound shut.
‘Thanks for the help, people.’ I call over my shoulder. We leave the puppet hospital and they watch us leave without a word.
Sean and I head to the nearby Police Station to make a report. Nobody is available, so we wait and wait and wait.
‘Who should I speak to?’ I finally demand of the three officers who have been lounging behind the front desk the whole time.
‘We’re busy tonight.’ A short, little hairy man sips his coffee. ‘We have many other more serious cases to deal with right now. Come back tomorrow.’ The fat man sitting next to him speaks jovially in Hebrew and the room breaks into laughter.
‘What was that?’ asks Sean angrily, ‘What did you say?’
‘Nothing.’ There is another snicker.
‘Why are you laughing?’
‘No reason. Nothing about you.’ A chuckle bursts from a woman at the back of the room.
My friend and I shake our heads. We exit through the automatic doors.
‘Come back tomorrow.” One of the office cops half-heartedly calls, before the doors slide shut.
The following morning I awake in my cabin to the calm rolling motion of the Red Sea. There is pain and there are bruises and I can’t open my left eye but the amateur plaster job seems to have held and closed the gash nicely. It will scar for certain, but it could be worse.
We don’t bother to return to the police and as the days pass it seems likely that no Russian pig is coming to kill me.
Sean’s kidney finally healed after a week or so of acute pain and a few days later I had depth perception again. The black eye faded slowly till only a devilish red remained where the white should be. This caused many a double-take from people that passed me by, till it too gradually drained away.
Sean and I celebrated the New Year, 2004, with a quiet beer on the boat.