David was stricken down with a tightly pressed fist. A blow to the head. David is dizzy.
David clawed the dirt with shallow raspy breaths. He knew better than to suck in air all at once. He had tried before and was met with radiating pain. His torso felt locked down with it. His ribs were broken.
“Try it again. I dare you,” Mort said as he leaned over David’s body with wisps of his hair hanging slightly over his his forehead. He pointed down with great force. His pointer kept David invisibly pinned in the ground.
The fight had gone on for twelve agonizing minutes. Most of those unskilled in the art of fighting, stamina evaporates after the first few swings. Even if it connects, exhaustion settles in quickly.
David wasn’t going to win…
This wasn’t a random street brawl. These men had known each other since grade school. They walked each other home from the school bus. They shared lazy summer days playing baseball and riding bikes. They went to high school and that’s when their paths began to diverge. Mort was interested in sports. David was interested in arts. Morts struggled with Math and David won Math competitions. Mort gravitated to the loudest people in school when it was necessary for homecoming events and school rallies. David preferred the library and board games. Mort chased after the girls in class. David did not.
David did not.
When the junior prom was upon them. the young boys and girls developed their strategies on whom they would ask. Some succeeded and others failed miserably. Mort developed cold feet to ask Trisha. David decided he would help, even though their friendship was a shell of what it used to be.
“You listening to me,” Mort taunted. “Huh?”
David shook his head and steadied his arms to gain his bearings. Mort’s bar friends had surrounded David and snickered as David struggled to get on his feet. All the men were drunk, incapable of seeing what was true. Not one of the emergency lines on the ground appeared straight.
“I’m talking to you.”
David knew his body was in bad shape. His limbs failed him where they couldn’t support his weight. David thought about speaking. He could taste blood in his mouth. He wondered if he still had the ability to speak.
David raised his pointer finger in the air as he woozily got to his feet and fell back down again. He could taste blood as he tongued his cheek. His cuts on his arms had dirt smeared in them. They stung a lot.
“We ain’t got all day! said one patron.”
That’s makes two of us, David said with a sigh. You know what’s interesting? Trash talking when people have already been destroyed. Why do you do that? Talk and fight? Does it give you satisfaction?
Yeah, screamed another drinker. His eyebrows knit, ready for a fight. David swayed to his feet. Something was off about David. He couldn’t stand straight and there wasn’t a spot on the wall for him to prop himself up.
“Come on man,” another drunk patron said to Mort. “Finish him off!”
“Yes Mort! Finish me. Right here in the street,” David said to his old friend. “In front of everyone. You really want to take my life? Sounds so intimate. So passionate.”
“Shut up,” Mort screamed, winding his fist back, ready to strike David.
“There’s no turning back now. You’re really committed to this whole thing. Geez David, if you’re committed, you should have put a ring on it.”
Mort felt his anger bubbling inside him. His voice teetered on breaking as he screamed unevenly. The bar patrons stood in complete silence, waiting for Mort to end it. With his grip on David’s collar, Mort wound his fist and came inches to making contact with David’s face and stopped. The onlookers were perplexed.
Mort dropped David onto the ground and walked back and forth pacing. A few boos had lingered longer when Mort ran his fingers through his hair.
“That’s okay. I didn’t like you either,” David said resting his head on the dirt.
“What did you say?”
David sighed. “Why do you hate me? It’s been clear for so long that you do. Even though we were friends growing up.”
“You don’t know why?”
“Nope,” David said with a chuckle. He pulled out a cigarette and began smoking while lying on his back.
“You… You’re… You know,” Mort stuttered.
David sat upright and titled his head with his cigarette still hanging from his mouth. “Use your words.”
“If you can’t say it, you might have a deeper problem you want to address.”
“Ah… that. Sorry to tell you this. I’m not gay.”
“What did you just say?”
“Don’t make me embarrass you.”
“Mort, do me a favor. Can you describe what specifically makes you think I’m a homosexual?”
Mort looked confused. “You… You liked theater.”
“Liking theater doesn’t mean you like men. It just means you like theater.”
“We got a wiseass over here,” an older, drunker man butted in.
“Listen, lynch mob,” David said, dismissing the man with a wave of his hand. “There’s a conversation going on. Go away. Go on, he said to Mort. What else made you think I was gay?”
“Everything,” Mort continued. “You were quiet. You didn’t chase girls.”
“None of those are requirements to be a homosexual.”
“Junior year, you said you were going to help me get that date for prom.”
“And I did.”
“She broke it off.”
“That’s not my problem. Her doing that to you doesn’t make me a gay person.”
“All the guys said you were.”
“Did they see something I did? Or was it all rumor?”
“David, I don’t understand. If you weren’t gay, why did you let me hit you? and belittle you?”
“Wait, are you saying that it’s okay to be beaten and be demeaning if anyone is gay? Gets up.”
“No,” Mort said. “It was an accident.”
“Lucky for me.”
“Show’s over boys,” Mort said to the crowd.
The crowd disperses.
“David, I’m sorry.”
“You know what? It’s okay. I’ve learned all that I needed to know,” David said in return.
“I need help.”
“Yeah. I’d say you do. Don’t take this personally. But I shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
David limped away into the darkness, leaving Mort with nothing but his fists and the blood on his knuckles from the only friend that understood him and cared for him.
David wasn’t going to win the fight… physically. But he helped his friend see to what he had been blind to for so long.