Well, I just had an interesting night – a night so interesting that it jolted me out of blogging semi-retirement. I write this at 1:50 AM, buzzed with the adrenaline of having been led out of a bar by the throat, courtesy of a man with a striking resemblance to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s not the first time I’ve been threatened with violence in a bar, and I’m starting to think I’ve developed a real talent for it.
Now, I should have known better than to attempt a night out in my hometown. Fresh back from Mexico City, where people just seem to get nicer the drunker they are, I was in for a rude awakening as I experienced Canadian passive-aggressiveness amplified by the poisonous effects of alcohol.
It started last night, when remote acquaintances lured me out for salsa dancing night at a local bar. I can’t dance for shit, but I was trying to force myself out of my bubble – Every visit home is a fresh rummaging through my closet full of skeletons, many of them bearing the musty odour of a painful adolesence spent trying to come to terms with Asperger’s Syndrome. Besides, with no local job or school, meeting people outside my family and my old gang doesn’t exactly come easily. And although I knew that the locals wouldn’t be as tolerant of my herky-jerky ersatz salsa as the saintly ladies of Mexico were, I still had enough positive associations (or delusions) that I figured I’d give it a shot.
Actually, salsa night wasn’t half-bad. Although my autistic-spastic dancing literally caused some women so much discomfort that they would apologetically flee in the middle of songs, others were undeniably sweet about giving me the chance to practice. I met a twentysomething woman who works for a video game company, who was only dancing as an excuse to talk to people. We danced robotically, repetitively and poorly, very much focused on our freewheeling conversation. She was adorable, and I eventually discovered that she has a boyfriend, but at this point all I really hope for in my hometown is conversation and a bit of kindness.
That night being only a partial catastrophe, I decided to go out to the same bar again tonight. I was joined by a friend who spent the first hour or so drinking passively at the table, observing people while trying to amass his liquid courage. Being that I don’t drink, I had no excuse for waiting, and took guilty pleasure in making him uncomfortable with my spectacular flameouts with the most unattainably attractive women in the room. Nonetheless, his lack of liquid courage was somewhat contagious, and I hesitated just long enough to observe a real Alpha type and his much shorter friend swoop in and offer the most beautiful girl in the place and her birthday girl friend, who was visiting from out of town, some celebratory shots. They eventually returned to their respective corners of the room, but somehow, with their combined Alpha and Diminutive Wingman powers, the seed they had planted eventually inspired the two ladies to wander over to their table. Many selfies ensued, and this somehow culminated – and I’m not exactly sure how, since I was out of earshot – in Birthday Girl miming oral sex on the Alpha as he lay sprawled out in the booth, with their phones capturing the video for posterity. Much laughter ensued, and a wholesome time was had by all. I watched it all with a good amount of jealousy and a whole lot of incomprehension. Damn, I thought, Alpha got game.
Fully inadequate but completely undeterred, I waited for their mime blowjob party to break up and then approached Unreasonably Beautiful Girl (to whom I shall henceforth refer as UBG), a vision of utter gorgeousness with her bronze skin and her overwhelming smile. She obviously wasn’t very interested in me, but she actually seemed to be nicer than other, less attractive women who I clumsily attempted conversation with throughout the night. She may not have shown much curiousity about me, but she didn’t immediately lapse into the “Sorry, I’m just here to have fun with my girlfriends” spiel, either. (This spiel always seems less convincing once I see the same woman making out with a total stranger a couple of hours later, but at least that didn’t happen this time.) When UBG asked Birthday Girl (from this point on, BG) out for a smoke break, I asked if I could join them outside, and she, being so gosh-darn nice, didn’t try to discourage me.
While outside, I ended up striking up a conversation with BG. Somehow, in the course of a two minute smoke break, we ended up on the topic of our mutual problems with social anxiety. She told me about how her anxiety had driven her to the point of suicidal depression, and how she had been planning to kill herself on her birthday month. It may not have been the flirty banter I would have had in mind, but I was glad to have a substantive conversation with another human being who actually wanted to hear what I had to say. She seemed especially interested in how I managed to evolve from a state of constant social anxiety into one of mere social incompetence. UBG, on the other hand, just wanted to have fun with her friend, and she soon dragged BG inside to dance to their favourite song. Encouragingly, BG grabbed me by the hand and dragged me along with her. I tried to continue the conversation, but the noise of the bar and UBG’s obvious disapproval of our “moment” soon cut that short. BG looked at me with very kind, sincere eyes, and promised that we’d talk about it more soon.
Eventually I noticed that Alpha and Li’l Wingy seemed to have diverted their attention to other women, and I soon found out why. It turned out that UBG had brought our her whole family for her friend’s birthday celebration, including mom and dad. Presumably simulated fellatio was one thing, but BG and UBG probably weren’t going to abscond with anyone under all that parental supervision. I later saw Alpha standing in the parking lot, snuggled up to a rather drunk and pliable-looking blond. After that I didn’t see him again, so draw your own conclusions.
For a while afterward, I didn’t see BG and UBG, either. Thinking they were gone, and having suffered other assorted humiliations in the meantime, I was all ready to leave when I saw the entire clan marching together across the room. The mother slammed into me while bitchily declaring that I had to get out of the way, since I had failed to make room for three women walking side-by-side in a crowded bar. Undaunted and stupid, I followed them to make one last attempt at conversation with BG before calling it a night. It did not go well.
BG and UBG were soon back at the table and caught up in a sisterly moment, with much hugging and many reassuring looks. I stood awkwardly nearby, finally giving BG a single tap on the shoulder to get her attention. “I’m about to go, so let me know if you wanna talk outside for a few minutes” – That’s what I would have said, but I never had the chance to get a single word out before UBG started slamming her fingers repeatedly into my chest, telling me that they were going through something and I shouldn’t interrupt them. Why they had chosen the bar as the location for their emergency family meeting, I will never know. I did not take kindly to having fingers jabbed into my chest, no matter how lovely those fingers might be, and I calmly and repeatedly told UBG to stop touching me. I tried to tell her that I was just saying bye to her friend, though I have no idea if I ever got the words out. Pretty soon Mama Bear was menacing me, too, but the fun really began when Papa rushed toward me with a face filled with fury. I’m not sure how I hadn’t noticed this imposing man before, with his uncanny resemblance to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but he was quite hard to ignore once he put his hand on my neck.
To be fair, his grip was surprisingly gentle considering the absolute rage in his face and in his voice. “Get the fuck out of here before I kick your ass!” he yelled, or something to that effect. The bouncer held him back on the way out, and I stared back at him for a moment, more dazed and amazed than scared. I gathered my thoughts, seriously considered telling him that I loved him in the Fast and the Furious movies, decided against it, and eventually settled on a course of action known as running the fuck away. I zigzagged through alleys and side roads, unsure if this was really going to make me any safer, or if I was just scouting for a perfectly secluded spot to have the shit kicked out of me. In the end, I doubled back to the main road and found a bus stop. At first I hid behind the bus bench while waiting for the next bus to arrive, kindly explaining to the fellow seated there that I was trying to avoid having my ass beat. He insisted I sit down and I, realizing how dumb I probably looked, soon took him up on his offer.
My new seatmate was a chilled-out Native man, just hanging out at the bus stop, drinking an 11% alcohol beer – quite illegally, under Canada’s hyper-puritanical public drinking laws, but at this point I was just happy to see a nonviolent face. With all the nastiness I’ve suffered at the hands of the Cool People in my hometown, I’ve lately been reflecting on how earnest, open and kind people living at the edges of society are by comparison. I’d say more, but I feel like there’s a whole other blog post there that has nothing to do with a large and terrifying man putting his hand on my neck.
Regardless, I told Bus Stop Man my story, and he chuckled as he informed me that he actually did know the person I was talking about. (Yes, really.) He asked if it was because I had been hitting on The Rock’s daughter, to which I answered, well, not exactly. (Technically I had been hitting on her, but that wasn’t the direct cause of his hand on my throat.) According to BSM, both he and Rocky were military veterans, and as I related my story with jerky autistic gestures and obvious agitation, he told me that he could understand how my awkward movements could set a fellow vet’s nerves on end. I forced myself to sit still, not wanting to follow up on my ass-kicking near-miss with some actual ass-kicking. (To hear him tell it, the colourful street lights in the city at night had a way of messing with his head, as well.) I gave BSM some money for booze, and once the bus arrived he asked for a ticket so we could keep talking.
After we got on the bus, it took me a while to realize that BSM was continuing to drink his tall can of 11% on board. (Again, no judgment there – I think I just enjoy seeing people break rules in such an uptight society.) As we talked more, I understood that he wasn’t merely a vet with PTSD, but someone with serious mental health issues. He showed me his unexplained scars connected with missing memories, talked about his injuries as if his body had been altered in some way, and spoke, not very metaphorically, of his service weapon being an organic extension of his flesh. I didn’t feel threatened, as he seemed calm and amiable, though he did bristle a bit when I made the mistake of mentioning that Rocky’s daughter was gorgeous. (Well, she was!) He told me to watch my words, and joked about him and Rocky fighting over the privilege of beating me up, but in a few seconds our conversation was back on an even keel.
I earnestly told BSM that I hoped he could get the help he needed, but declined to give him the additional booze money that he asked for. In the end, I couldn’t really be sure if anything he told me had been true, though he did seem to know The Rock – he even told me his name, which I will not repeat. I got off the bus and entered the subway, where I felt so wired that I felt the need to vent to total strangers. Canadians are not always comfortable talking to agitated weirdos on the train platform at 1 AM, although I did manage to strike up a conversation with a gentle-faced, possibly gay man who had apparently just gotten off work, and was presently in deep concentration eating a corn dog. (I have a strict rule of only interrupting people who are eating if I have recently had someone grasping my neck.) In spite of his mild discomfort and his corn dog, Corn Dog Man politely listened to my story and indulged me in a bit of small talk. My train arrived before CDM’s and I bid him adieu, happy to get scraps of decency and kindness wherever I might on the way home.
I wasn’t upset, exactly – the night had been too amazing for that – but I was definitely overloaded. I didn’t want to be alone, so I attempted another conversation with a completely corn dogless woman on the train. She had even more difficulty concealing her discomfort, and responded to my story and my small talk in the most minimal, diplomatic way possible. Aware of her queasiness toward an agitated stranger on the night train, I announced my final destination to her in advance, hoping it would provide some reassurance if she were getting off before me. As it turned out, she did get out at the stop before mine, but didn’t seem reassured at all. I guess she just wasn’t mentally ill or PTSDed enough to step outside her bubble of painful Canadian propriety and talk to a stranger on a train with a hell of a story.
Maybe that’s why I get along better with the crazies than with the beautiful people up here – because in this city, I’m crazy too.