Saturday Night’s Alright for Getting Punched in the Face by a Stranger

Not simply content with rambling opinion pieces, where I attempt to construct cogent arguments to back up the random thought I’ve just had while having a pee, I am now in to recounting events from my life for the purpose of entertainment. It may get philosophical; it may attempt to get humorous; it may fail completely and bore you all in to a drooling, stupefied torpor. What a time to be alive.

I am someone who absolutely loves to write fiction; to create worlds out of nothing; to start with a blank page, and fill it with words. Words which fill your minds with images. Images of people and places and events. Events which, crucially, have never ever happened. This is not one of those posts.

That said; if ever I read a writer telling me that “This is a true story” I will never believe it. In the case of this page of text, this is a story I remember happening. But I’ve slept since then, so I may not be able to recall every detail. Any time that happens, I’m going to make it up. And that’s a promise.

It all starts on a night out, in a nightclub in Newcastle. I was out with some people I knew, and others they knew. We’d had a few beers, and we were all getting along reasonably well. Good start.

This was a night in my pre-settled down, pre-dad, pre-let’s just-get-a-few-cans-in days. I was actively seeking the company of a lady in the company I was out with; her male friends were very good at engaging me in conversation about all kinds of things. They did not accompany me to the toilet.

The two I hadn’t met before were friends of the three I had: A nice, if considerably older bloke, let’s call him Malcolm; and Malcolm’s friend Colin. Colin is a big lad; bigger than me. I’m over six feet, and Colin could see how luxuriously thick my hair was in those days. I felt like a midget in comparison.

Colin and Malcolm moved between propping up the bar, deep in conversation, and chatting amiably with the rest of us. They were relaxed, and they were sociable. There was nary a hint of the violence which was set to ruin the evening for quite a few people. Drunk people milled hither and yon.

Colin was walking back from the bar, pint in hand, when it happened: A drunk youth, we shall call The Fool, swaggered across the open floor and heaved a punch up in to Colin’s face. Colin picked The Fool up as he attempted to flee and threw him hard in to a set of metal railings. Then there was silence.

Colin leapt to the floor and started pummelling the face of The Fool. This is the point it gets hazy for me. I remember the punch being thrown out of the clear blue nowhere: Unprovoked idiocy; a moron trying to ruin someone else’s night. The fury that followed is somewhat of a blur, I’m afraid.

I had never seen someone having the shit kicked out of them for a prolonged period of time before. I had witnessed many playground fights, scuffles and contretemps over the years, but this was a good old fashioned leathering at the hands of a man who was fucking furious with this swaggering prick.

Young women flew to the scene to protect their friend, but they were rebuffed. At one point, one of them ran off to seek help for the seemingly unjust retribution. That’s when it clicked: no one had seen the first blow but us. There was no proof. Today there would be YouTube videos uploaded in minutes. Not back then. There was nothing but a huge man turning a small man red and squishy.

The bouncers were a vision of well-trained efficiency. Pretty girls had informed them their friend was being attacked. They removed the attacker with surgical precision. He fought back, to no avail.

The perpetrator of the attack had become the victim, and that is the thing which has stuck with me all these years. Colin, for all I was slightly intimidated by him, was minding his own business, having a quiet night out with a bunch of like-minded folk. He didn’t need to be assaulted on a night like that.

We all protested to the security team that the perpetrator was really the guy picking up the remains of his face, not the mountain with the bloodied fists. Ever professional, the bouncers informed us in no uncertain terms that he was leaving, and not on foot. We were free to stay as long as we liked.

The Fool probably sustained some relatively serious damage. If he didn’t, I fear he may have tried such antics again. As it stands, the last I saw of him was a bloodied, swaying face in a first aid room, surrounded by a group of clucking women, making sure he was ok. I’m pretty sure he would be.

We chose to leave in solidarity, but only after finishing our drinks – we are Geordies after all – and getting our coats – but we’re not stupid. He was sitting outside the club, on the steps. I faintly recall him waiting for his girlfriend to pick his coat up for him. I don’t remember her being out with us.

The aftermath of these things will always be the same, at least for those of us unaccustomed to such flashes from the darkness. We milled about in bathos; uncertainty reigning over us. A combination of adrenaline and injustice coursed through our collective veins, and stoked the fires of our quarrel.

Colin had been wronged and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. That’s not right.

It slowly dawned on us all that nothing would come of standing here, waiting for nothing to happen. It’s not like we were going to jump The Fool, and subject him to the kind of street-based justice other, less coat wearing, people would turn towards. That way madness, prison and neck tattoos lie.

It wasn’t the first time that this had happened and it would most certainly not be the last. We would have to move on. If we were lucky, this is the kind of experience that a close group friendship could be based upon. None of us were lucky; I bumped in to a couple of them a year later, and none of it even raised the faintest glimmer of recognition. It was just another night out, dimly remembered.

And off we trooped in to the night, adrenaline sobered, in search for a bag of chips and a cup of tea.