Art Pact 242 - Thrown out
I punched the bartender, which lead inevitably, as night follows day and day follows night, to me being repeatedly punched myself - first in the face by the other bartender, who at least did me the human decency of putting the bottle she was holding down behind the bar beforehand, and then subsequently in the back by bouncer number one (the big guy, the one with the newspaper type tattoo on his face that made him look like a huge human-shaped piece of silly putty). Finally there was a a resounding one-two in the stomach by bounder number two, who I can only assume had some sort of obsessive-compulsive need for balance, since he gave me one shot with each hand one perfectly opposed ribs. Had I gone to the doctor no doubt I would have been awarded a cup for the most symmetrical injury. At the time, of course, my thoughts were not on that glittering prize and the fame and women that would come with it, but on the four sources of pain which were now present in my otherwise healthy body, and how they might be affected by the parabolic arc in which I was being comically sent by the two bouncers - or more strictly, how they might be affected by the impending collision with the pavement which promised a swift terminus to my impromptu aeronautics.
The question of why I had punched the bartender, given the retaliation that I knew would come from such an act, was not one I chose to ponder on during that flight - except obliquely. Instead I thought - as I often thought, at the time - of William. I suppose in a sense he was the primum movens of the five blows, although perhaps it might be more accurate to describe him as the antithesis of the primum mobile, he constituting as it were the innermost point around which I (and as far as I was concerned the rest of the world) rotated in steadily increasing concentric rings. I, I thought charitably, might perhaps inhabit the sphere of Mars, somewhat distant but still important, although my natural disbelief in the stereotypes of gender made me recoil somewhat from this thought, implying as it did something of the John Gray orthodoxy. Similarly glumly I might accept that Caroline was the inhabitant of the sphere of Venus, a domicile she was well suited for.
It was perhaps too much of an opportunity for the grim world to pass up on that I might think of her at that very moment so that my mental, emotional, and physical pain should coincide in a perfect storm of misery, my mind occupied with that treacherous siren just as my hand, my elbow, my head, then the rest of me, crashed into the paving stones with reckless abandon. I saw a bright light and was somewhat disappointed to discover that it was not the light from above, the beckoning heavens calling me to ascend and forgiving all my sins, but instead some sort of brief flash caused by the intersection of my delicate brain and the unyielding stone.
I lay there. I'm not ashamed to say that my eyes were watering, and if it hadn't been for the fact that the impact with the pavement had winded me, I might well have been crying. You don't take a beating like that without a little sadness, and since I'd taken beatings of greater or lesser extent in the past, I'd come to accept that toughing it out wasn't always the best plan. Sure, in front of other people you tough it out, show that you can't be controlled by pain, but when I'm alone that rule is superceded by the need for emotional release.
Of course, times change. If at one moment you're alone you may well start crying only to find that you have to stop rather precipitously. I heard the sound of platform heels clunking towards me, and then the surprising voice of Alison.
"Oh my god! Billy? Billy, are you all right?"
My heart sank, but fortunately the displacement of that organ provided enough emotional vacuum to suck the tears back into my ducts. I felt around on the cold surface, trying to get my hands under me enough to raise my head a little. I got there, but once I'd freed my face from being pressed against the pavement my arms decided their work was done and they let me down again. I was left with the other side of my face on the paving stone. Admittedly, it was a little more comfortable. But it also made more of me visible to Alison, confirming her diagnosis.
"Oh god! Here, let me help you up!" I felt hands on my shoulders, a little lifting force, then I was let go again - fortunately I had not moved far enough to fall. "Oh no! Wait, don't move! Don't move while I call the ambulance!"
"I'm fine," I groaned, this time pushing myself up into a sitting position.
"Who did this?"
I nodded towards the bar. Alison rolled up the sleeves of her houndstooth coat and set her jaw to kill.
"Homophobic bastards!" she spat. "Want me to go in there and feed them a few knuckle sandwiches?"
"Please don't," I said. "I think they already have catering in the bar, I don't want you to get in trouble."
"They can't get away with this!"
"They can," I groaned, getting to my knees, "and they will, do you understand? I started this."
"Fucking gay-bashing Nazi bullies," she said, slipping one arm around me and helping me up. "You can't let these things go."
"I can, and I will," I repeated firmly. "Listen, they're wankers but not that sort of wanker."
Alison was determined to blame someone, though, and without an obvious target in bigoted bar-staff that left only me. She tutted at me, huffed through her nose, and moved me off down the pavement.
"I can't believe you're still getting in this sort of trouble," she said.
"This is new trouble," I confessed.