I had the most extraordinary conversation last night. We were at Morton's, a high end bar in Reston, VA, and my friend was discussing her boyfriend and how he'd almost gotten into a fight with another guy. That in and of itself wasn't the important thing. What astonished me was that she wanted to see him go through with it.
This isn't young testosterone-fueled guys we're talking about. This was a woman who had just turned fifty. Her boyfriend was the same age. Still, there is something feral and fierce about him, a nice guy in a muscular body, a former restaurant owner, a former bouncer, a master diver who scuba dives to 250 feet and lower with triple tanks and exotic gasses, a race car driver who's walked away from wrecks without a scratch... I could tell you stories about this guy you wouldn't believe.
Mike's impatient with being anyone's object. He likes his cigars and his drinks, and he occasionally has a relationship with a woman. The longest relationship he's ever had was with my friend Suey. He doesn't do women very well, because he's not much of a talker, and he doesn't do warm and fuzzy. If you love him, you love him on his terms. He likes a lot of time by himself. He hates socializing. For him, parties are death. He hates small talk.
Mike was his high school's linebacker, and I'll bet he was a pretty good one. He was smart, fast, instinctual. He never hit maliciously. If you had the ball, well, things happen, you know? He hit you like God's own fury. Nothing personal, guy. It was just his job to stop you. Oh, and he'd stop you. Mike's dad would tell Suey about some of Mike's particularly fearsome hits. The helmets rolling on the ground. Then he'd come home, eat dinner, and go out swimming, like nothing happened.
Mike just got a tattoo. Flew out to LA to have it done by a Mexican guy in a wheelchair. Within the ink community, this guy's a rock star. He does your tattoo, but you have to appreciate his work. Mike had the right side done, ribs down to the hip. Hurt like hell. Usually this procedure took a few weeks, an hour here or there, then the tattooee would recuperate from the shock and pain, then go in again, etc. Mike did it in one marathon 12 hour session. The actual tattooing time was 7 1/2 hours. No meds, no pills, nothing but silence and an occasional sigh.
Suey was telling us this in the bar, me, her, and another girlfriend. Her eyes gleamed. She couldn't imagine the pain. But she adored that he was pain tolerant.
I'm telling you this because she's not a bimbo. She's an executive in a privately held company. She's bought and sold companies before. She lives in a million dollar condo. She doesn't want for money, but she is impatient with most men. They're not industrial strength like she needs.
But Mike is.
She hates not being able to show him off at dinners and parties. He's a nice looking guy with a strong jawline. She'd love to walk around with him, her arm on his, but that's not his style.
She hated it, and they broke up.
She missed him, and then they got together.
She got fed up with his aloofness, and they broke up.
She missed him, and then they got together again.
They did this a few more times.
Now they're both back together.
She's reconciling herself to the fact that she can't change him.
This is who he is.
Mike is still in amazingly good shape. He has a body designed by God.
Anyway, all this is prelude to the story Suey told about what happened with Mike over the summer. He was at Morton's, waiting for Suey. They were going to have drinks and smoke cigars.
A patron sat outside, then left to go take a piss. Mike, who came in after the guy left, stood by the railing close to the chair and waited. The patron came back, saw Mike standing there, and decided that Mike was in his personal space. He could have moved his chair, but didn't want to.
Drunk Patron: Hey bud. You're too close. Move.
Mike doesn't say anything, looks around, sees that Drunk patron could easily move his chair.
Mike: I don't think so.
DP: What's your problem, asshole?
Mike: (laughs). No problem at all.
DP: I asked you to move.
Mike remains silent, looks for Suey.
Suey arrives just in time.
Suey: Jesus, the guy had two inches and forty pounds on Mike, and both were balling up their fists.
Victoria: What did you do?
Suey: I had no idea what to do. Mike doesn't have much ramp-up time. He doesn't really give any indication that anything's about to happen until his neck gets red.
Victoria: And was it?
Suey: Oh yeah.
Victoria: Then what?
Suey: Then Mike stepped out of his flip flops. Mike never takes off his flip flips.
Me: Jesus, Suey. You were watching all this?
Suey: Until he took off his flip flops. That's when I walked in between them and suggested that we go drinking elsewhere.
Suey: Mike would have put him down with one punch.
Suey: And the thing of it is, a part of me wanted to see him do it.
She talked about wanting to go to boxing matches. I'd always thought that women would go to boxing matches to appease their boyfriends. But that's not the entire story. There's a subset of women who like to see men at their most elemental.
A part of me doesn't want to acknowledge the truth of this. It's not politically correct. I still don't know what to make of this. Women are such gentle creatures. My wife certainly is. She abhorred fighting and violence of all kinds. She did not enjoy men competing in sports. She hated the violence of football, boxing, hockey.
And so here's Suey, who likes violence in an atavistic but controlled sort of way.
Where's the truth? What is right? Violence is childish. And yet is it wrong to acknowledge the terrible secret inside of some of us, that violence is something we shamefully love?