Sunday, June 8, 2008

I think someone died in Sanlitun last night...

Around the corner they came with ironclad faces like bloodied lictors set to course to perform a deed already done, not anger in their hearts and not hatred exactly but a throbbing sense that the universe had tilted in its last bygone hour and some inextricable fragment as their pride or something primordial and intrinsic had been knocked out of whack and was now spiraling into a chasm with no choice of alternative. Eyes colorless and unbending in the percolating light. One with a studded truncheon for a right hand, and at his footsteps a shirtless mercenary cursing his rank among the six or eight.

The grimness of this scene in the early morning shocked us into reconsidering our exit. We spun around and watched the antic tide roll past and only later registered that this was the harbinger of death foretold in the waning dark letting fall the final vestiges of shade. This was death as written in the dirt and death as imprinted on our code and smoked into a recycled air that swelled with this stench. Mildew and decay in naked view, now walking away, now disappearing around the corner.

Earlier that night from a balcony we spied a pack of Algiers set upon a man who fell into a fetal position under the protection of confreres who draped themselves over his limp body. A black girl who lingered under a tree immediately below us said in a twisted English, Beat his ass, beat his ass, as if the French they spoke was too dignified to be employed in the encouragement of the walloping of human flesh. They kicked and stomped before a group of security guards in black shirts shooed them away. A middle-aged Chinese man next to me smiled to his comrade and between us a ludicrous comment remained unsaid.

Earlier we saw black-shirted guards chase an Englishman down an alleyway, using clubs, into a bar, the pack of them operating with tenacious speed and terrifying efficiency. The Englishman emerged moments later with dots of blood on his shirt and blood dripping off his face. He sat on a motorcycle while his friends comforted him and apologized and tried dispelling those fantasies of revenge brewing in his bloodied head. And before him, an unconscious expat carried by arms and legs by eight men and deposited in an alley, or on a curb, anywhere but that sanctuary which smelled of booze and vomit and bliss. Out of what common chrysalis might these creatures have materialized to suffer these indignities and inflict them in a cycle of punishment and penance.

The fact of their going was beyond inquiry the moment we saw our first fight, a bronze-skinned man thrusting his hand into another man's face and pushing him hard onto the ground, the back of his head lodging into a bike pedal. Motherfucker, motherfucker. The abused stood and wobbled ever so slightly, then grabbed a bottle and walked past our table to confront his abuser being ushered away by cooler heads. He tapped his Heineken on the stone of a nearby shack, tap tap tap, wordless and lightness and flashes of derangement in his eyes. His hair long and slicked back and his narrow frame gave the impression of one in the wrong place running with the wrong crowd, a gazelle in a bullpen. The other let him wobble past down the road to his ignominious exit, a last gesture not quite of generosity but clemency as we laughed and said, Did you see the way he was tapping his bottle? As if not going would violate some inviolable mishnic that determined this life and perhaps the next.

1 comment:

DigablePlanets said...

Your writing style is far too verbose, and this coming from someone who is oft criticized for superfluous wordplay. It detracts from the material.