Continued from Drunk Girls and The Holi Party
It’s cold, my clothes are wet and I’ve got vomit on me. This party’s devolved into a putrid mess, and on top of everything, my jet lag is chasing my adrenaline. I’m done and ready to leave.
I come around the side of the farmhouse and see Samantha. She’s unable to walk and being helped along by two men. I don’t know what it is with these girls, but they drink like Japanese businessmen. I sense something is wrong, but I’m so tired that it doesn’t seem anymore wrong than the last vomit-parade. I walk right up to them and take Samantha into my arms before they even realize I’m talking to them. “Thanks guys. I’ll take her from here.”
One of the men bows his head. He has that “busted” look of shame, like he’s been caught re-handed. It’s Grabby Hands from the hot tub. I’m about to say something when the other gets in my face like I’ve stolen his kill. It’s the aggressive guy she’d complained about earlier. The one that was pestering all the girls and violently mashing color into their hair.
Now I understand. They were headed in the direction of the outdoor bathrooms, away from the crowd. A nice quiet place where no one will interrupt you.
I turn the dial straight up to 11 and march him backwards, driving through his personal space. “BACK UP, MOTHERFUCKER! IF YOU TOUCH HER AGAIN I’LL SMASH YOUR FUCKING HEAD IN!”
Really, I don’t have the energy to be a vigilante. I just want to grab her and go, and my sudden intensity has the intended effect, leaving him stunned long enough for me to turn and pick up Samantha. I curse and keep looking around for Jampa with the keys. If there was ever a time to go, this is it.
With both arms supporting her, I’m left vulnerable, and now the Instigator has composed himself and is back in my face. His renewed confidence has energized Grabby Hands, and some other party-goers have come to have a look.
He won’t let me go. He’s hung up on my calling him a “motherfucker,” which, as a New Yorker, I can’t even begin to tell you how baffling that is. Is that really what we’re fighting about? I look to the crowd for some kind of confirmation, but get nothing. I’m backed into a corner of the lawn with Samantha in my arms and he and Grabby Hands leave me no exit.
I’m angry, I’m tired, and cornered with the instigator barking in my face, I’ve made up my mind: We’re leaving.
I roll a barely conscious Samantha onto the ground as softly as I can, then turn and punch him right in the face.
The problem is, even as a Sergeant in the Marines, I’ve never thrown a good punch. The few times I’ve fought off muggers or assailants, it’s been no more effective than hitting a beehive with a stick. The only upside in this case is that the bees have completely forgotten about Samantha.
The childish look of surprise hangs on his face for only a few seconds, and after the shock wears off, he quickly turns back into a snarling dog, running up to kick me in the balls and take a victory lap. It’s a poor kick and I feel no pain, so I just stand there, looking at him, thinking, Okay, that’s one for one. I tell him to leave. Instead, he runs up and punches me three times in the face, jumping back triumphantly for the growing crowd.
Fortunately, his hits are just as bad as mine, so I remain calm. Four for one. Can we go now?
I look to his friends and tell them to take him away, but when I go to pick up Samantha again, someone comes over to play arbiter. He has an air of authority, but it’s not enough. Even as I’m standing there, trying to explain that we want to leave, the instigator and a friend with a ponytail take turns hitting me in the head.
“He says you hit him.” Says the arbiter, uninterested on the continued attack. This must be what it’s like when the UN debates the definition of a war while it rages on.
I stand there in disbelief, watching his eyes while I take the punches. “Dude!” Thump! “Are you even-” Thump! Thump! “…seeing this!?” Thump!
Some judge he is, but his ruling is that I need to leave, and I’m happy to oblige, I just need to grab Samantha. Someone interjects in Hindi, and then he says, “She says she doesn’t want to leave with you.”
My tone is one of pure contempt. “What?” I walk over to Samantha and there’s this momentary ceasefire while I confer with her, probably only because if I’m ejected, then there’s no one left to tell them to stop. Certainly not from this crowd. I stand her up on her feet and grab her by the shoulders. She’s not even able to look at me.
“Samantha?” I say, and she musters a response.
I speak to her in the calm, instructional voice like a grade-school teacher lecturing a child during a ‘teachable moment’. “Sam, if you stay, these men are going to take you into those bushes, and they’re going to rape you.” I let it sink in. “Do you want that?”
She mumbles a response, head rolling around, “No.”
“Do you want to leave?” I ask her, gently.
“Yes.” She says.
“Do you want to leave with me?” I ask.
“Yeah.” She says, swaying.
I turn to the arbiter with open hands and a look on my face that says, “Satisfied?”
But he’s not satisfied. He’s one of the Instigators friends, and they all swarm at me with shoves and punches.
I’m able to break free of the assailants and charge off cursing towards the pool to look for the host. The extra eyes of the remaining guests keep the violence from following me. I can’t find the host but I see one of his friends. I make sure he remembers me from earlier and tell him about the fight and that he needs to escort us to our vehicle. He agrees and follows me back to the commotion, however confused.
The assailants, five or six at this point, scatter from Samantha and keep a little distance in the face of some recognized authority. I pick up our bags, one on each shoulder and scoop up a barely conscious Samantha into my arms. Mercifully, Jampa appears from around the corner and I give him an unambiguous “We’re leaving!” jerk of the head. He can tell there’s danger and runs ahead to car. I follow him, carrying Samantha while the snarling pack nips at my heels, threatening me and telling me how they’re going to get me once we get outside.
My optimism craters with the realization that the car is parked outside of the gate, beyond the protection of the host. Oh Shit, I think to myself.
Outside, I find the car unlocked and prop Samantha against it to open the door. Jampa helps me push her into the backseat and I get in with her and shut the doors. Now it’s really time to go.
I count the seconds as I wait for Jampa to get in the driver’s seat. Through the fogged up windows I can see shapeless figures pouring out from the gate. The dogs are back.
I check on Samantha. Barely awake, she’s completely unaware of the danger.
Suddenly the door to my left flings open.
Fuck me. I forgot to lock it.
A man dives in head first and starts swinging. The punches land on my face and the sides of my head, one after another.
I’m on my back and kick at him, trying to catch his fists before they can reach me. Then the other door opens and Samantha screams as someone tries to drag her from the car.
A third assailant begins hitting me from between the front seats.
I’m stretched across the backseat of this Fiat, legs kicking and grappling at anything that moves to stem the assault. Every thud against my head reverberates through my ears like a drum and dazed me with flashes of white. All this as six fists fight for real estate on my face.
My punches and kicks fly on instinct. I swing and get a shot in here or there. Somebody’s head. Somebody’s shoulder. Every time I reach out to grab something, I worry I’ll snap my fingers.
If there are any strikes to my body, I don’t feel them. There is no quitting or time-outs.
I can’t stop wondering, How I’m still conscious?
After every impact, I run a system check like an old computer.
Eyes? (Still seeing.)
Bones and teeth? (Unbroken.)
This happens over and over.
At one point I see a face near my foot and I heel-kick it as hard as I can, sending its owner reeling into the dirt. Somehow I get the door shut. I ignore the hits from the front seat. Whoever he is he has no footing to make them count. Climbing on top of Samantha I start grappling with the attacker from her side. When I push him back and get the door shut, locking it this time, the one I’d just closed flies open again.
There’s gotta be ten of these assholes! I think as I kick at him.
I can fight two at a time, maybe three, but they’re pouring into the open doors of the Fiat like a scene straight out of Old Boy. I’m thinking I could really use a hammer right now.
With every hit to the head, I’m wondering how many more I can take. For a moment I see Jampa outside, trying to communicate with the attackers, he’s got his hands up and gets a punch to the face as his reward.
However many there are, here, crammed into the back of a Fiat, they’re funneled down to three at the most, but when I manage to hurt one, he gets tagged out by someone fresh and eager to get a few hits in. As soon as I get one door closed, another opens and me or Samantha get dragged by the head or arms, or just pummeled in place.
Through the chaos, I recognize the instigator crawling over from the front seat and he starts swinging at me. I manage to shield myself with one hand lock the rear doors with the other.
This is turning into a fight to the death, but through all of my fear, all of my terror, he’s the first one of them I’m relieved to see. If someone has to die for this to end, it’s not going to be me, and he’s the leader of this mob.
He keeps swinging and I flatten onto my back and lay the trap. I spread my arms to brace myself against the seat, leaving my face open to attack. He takes the bait and climbs right on top of me.
In my one moment of clarity, my only thought is, I got you now you now you son of a bitch.
I put my foot into his chest and lift him up, pinning him to the ceiling. Suspended in the air, he continues to swing, but his reach is limited.
He doesn’t yet realize what’s happening, and flush with adrenaline I push everything I have into the center of his chest. I i magine what it feels like to have 500 pounds crushing your heart and lungs. I feel his ribs bending and cracking under my heel. I can hear his friends outside, pulling on the door handles and banging on the glass, but I keep pushing. I’m fighting for my life, and I can see the panic in his eyes as he realizes that I’m not going to stop. His withered swings at my head turn to strained clawing at my leg. I want him to fear death.
There’s no pride left in me. No ego. I’m terrified, and I just want this to end.
The one that was trying to smash the window to rescue him is now trying to get at me from the front seat. It’s Ponytail Guy, here to save his rapist bastard of a friend. He manages to get past the blockage and starts hitting me. These hits are better than the ones before and I lose focus.
I drop the instigator from the ceiling and he collapses onto me like a rag doll. He’s unconscious but alive. With his body covering me, Ponytail Guy is having a difficult time finding a target. I’m dreading the one good hit that ruins me. The instigator is starting to regain consciousness. I can’t keep fighting two at once. I have to finish one of them, and he’s the most likely to cave or die first. And I’m willing.
I manage to twist him around, getting his neck into the crease of my right elbow, and grabbing my left bicep forming a headlock. He’s awake and pulling at it to get free. With my left hand I reach over the top of his head and press my fingers deep into his eye sockets, worming my fingernails beneath his eyelids. I can feel them moving against my nails.
“Are you finished?” I yell, digging hard into his eyeballs.
He screams, writhing in my arms and clawing at me to relieve the pressure. I’m trying to get my fingers where I can pop them out if I need to.
“ARE-YOU-DONE?” I shout, pushing deeper into his eye sockets.
“Yes.” He whimpers, shaking.
I scream into his ear and keep the pressure on. “Yes what? SAY IT!”
“I’m done. I’m finished.” he whimpers, going limp.
I start to release the pressure, but even with his surrender, the blows from Ponytail Guy keep coming, and they’re dangerous hits. I dig my fingers back into his eyes and make him my hostage.
“TELL YOUR FRIEND TO STOP HITTING ME OR I’LL RIP YOUR FUCKING EYES OUT!”
“Stop! Stop!” He cries, and Ponytail Guy backs off and disappears.
I open the door and shove him into the dirt, leaving him to crawl, clutching his eyes. I lock the door and turn to check on Samantha. She’s been beaten, and she’s bleeding from the leg, but she’ll be okay.
Suddenly there’s a thump and a flash. I’m blinded by a hit to the face and my head gets yanked backwards against the seat. Someone came through the rear hatch and was wrestling me into the same chokehold I’d used on the instigator. It’s Ponytail Guy out for revenge, and in terror I feel his fingers hook into my eye sockets.
The pain is incredible, but nothing compared to the terror of knowing what comes next. There will be no opportunity for surrender. It’s fight or die, and once he takes my eyes, it’s all over. Blinded, I kick at the air and claw at his hands.
Struggling to squirm free, I feel flesh against my lips and I bite down as hard as I can. I put everything I have into ripping a chunk out of his forearm, and his grip loosens over my eyes and manage to get ahold of two of the fingers he’d plunged into my right eye. I wrench them as hard as I can, and feel them snap.
He cries out, recoiling out the back, and my sight returns to me. I waste no time pulling the hatch shut. I have nothing left. The panic of has mixed with the adrenalin and the resulting stew has ruined me.
The remaining attackers are losing steam. Someone gets the door open and yells a threat and walks off. Another jumps in to take a shot or two but it’s all token gestures. Without their leaders, the fight is approaching its end.
Then I see a man at the door brandishing a razor, and turn cold when I see the flicker of light from the blade. I’m afraid, anticipating the wounds on my bare feet and legs. I could run through him. Maybe wrestle the blade from him, stab him, and make it back inside, but if he get a good slash in first, I could bleed to death before we get to a hospital. British police are trained in unarmed defense against knives. You WILL get slashed, but you’re supposed to block with the outside of your arms. I don’t have the guts for it, and I don’t want to bleed to death.
The brandisher just stands there, looking confused. I think he’s someone I was friendly with at the party, when he was called to the fight, he didn’t expect to find me here.
“Please.” I say to him, putting up my hands in surrender and pushing back against a now-unconscious Samantha. Maybe pity will be enough. We just look at each other, me at him and his blade, him at me, curled up with Samantha and as far away as I can get. We’re frozen in place. Then he turns and runs from the scene and I pull the door shut.
I see Jampa outside. He’s crying in the arms of some onlooker who put a stop to his attackers. Through the fog of the windows I can see others from the crowd inching forward, tempted to intervene, and I realize what it will take to get away.
I start to cry as loud and sad as I can. Big, tactical tears.
“Please! Please stop! Please just let us go! We just want to go home!” If they feel like they won they can leave and brag about how they beat up some tough-talking American pussy. I don’t care, as long as they leave.
I think of Bill Paxton, crying and pissing himself at the top of the dam in True Lies during the mock execution. “I got a little dick,” He whimpers to his kidnappers, “it’s pathetic!”
If I knew Hindi, I’d scream it as loud as I can.
Samantha is starting to come to, and unaware of the new game plan, she starts yelling insults and talking tough. I grab her in a bear hug masquerading as a romantic embrace and tell her to shut up. “You know how to cry?” I say. “Do it!” I growl in her ear, and force her head onto my shoulder.
She complies and the watchers respond to it. Some start interrogating the attackers. Another comes to help by holding the doors shut. When it seems like he might leave, I give him my best Puss-In-Boots impression and beg him not to go.
It might be over. The host is now out front and he’s pissed. Jampa, his face beaten, gets in and starts the car, racing away from the farmhouse and back to towards the center of New Delhi. We’re so drained from the fight that he can barely keep the wheel straight. I’m afraid of a crash, but less so than being followed.
“Porrish!” he sounds at me, mouthing each syllable and he weaves the car in search of a thoroughfair.
I veto the idea. I don’t need the police. I need a doctor, and I need one right now. Never mind the fact that I may have maimed or killed a man. I’m not sticking around to see how it plays out with an Indian jury.
We speed through South New Delhi looking for a hospital. It takes forever, but we find one. A public hospital, overflowing with sick people and holiday car crash victims. When we finally park in front of the ER, into the protection of the masses and police sentries, it’s the first time we feel safe. Jampa and I put an arm around each other and break down and cry without shame. Then we limp into the ER.
There is blood everywhere. The place is packed to the gills. Smears on the walls and bloody handprints on the linoleum stretchers. Puddles on the floor.
Jampa is barefoot, dragging his feet across the floor. He’d given his shoes to Samantha, who’d lost hers in the fight. Her arms and legs were quicy turning bruised, and dried blood crusted over a laceration on her thigh.
As the only sober one able to speak, I have a hard time with the intake doctor. I can’t tell if I have a concussion or if it’s exhaustion. A combination of no sleep, 12 hours of jet-lag, and an adrenaline dump.
Because it’s related to a crime, they require me to give a statement to the police office. Though nervous about involving the police, I didn’t come all this way just to get brain damage, so I tell them the story.
The neurosurgeon looking over my scan disapproves. He tells me I’m going to see that kind of behavior here, and that I should remember I’m a foreigner. It’s too dangerous, he says. “Next time just don’t get involved.”
Continued in India by the Orbitals Part III — Whenever I get down to finishing it. These are the first of the India stories, and there are more to come. Suffice to say, I went to the embassy the next day, but didn’t flee. I just kept my ear to the ground and got my adventure on. And so it continues.