My Vagabond Shoes
He was staring at my vagabond Fred Perry’s. They make a subtle suggestion, I said, that I am a bad-ass motherfucker. He grinned condescendingly. My dark grey jeans complimenting that notion as well. My loose shirt however, states the opposite; my vagabond days are behind. Effortfully counseled by bohemian motives. Now, do you want know what those shoes are really saying, I asked evenly. He seemed mildly interested at best. I was in an ignorant mood so I went on.
The real story behind those shoes originates from my well buried adolescence. I grew up in a small town. A village actually. Very rural, very basic. The school was the only influx of progress from the outside world. The only bar was the opposite, a nest of trouble, and decent into no good. My mind was active and bright but school was not enough. I wanted to experience everything. Even though I didn’t know the definition of everything back then. I am closer to it now. My point is: books were not enough.
No other piers of mine had read a book, or cared to do so. Their most precious leisures were cigarettes and beer. They firmly believed God had put them on Earth to do just that. I was soaking in the bad habits around me, to the point where I became the center of this violent lifestyle.
Physical confrontations were rife. The spice of the town. That was what all adults talked about in the morning when buying bread. Who fought whom, for what stupid reason and so on.
All was well, it was part of life out there. As long as my name was not mentioned too often, I was in good graces.
One hot summer night, the beers were cold, but their potency was not enough. So we were mixing a shot of brandy in each bottle just to prove that we were men. Conversations were casual and about the same old things. Our hopelessness, the government’s corruption, the local police’s corruption, the useless schools, ‘there’s no way out’. Somehow the conversation drifted to the two men who had raped a girl almost a year ago. One of their classmates. A girl they grew up with. A girl that was the waitress in the bar and they were both sitting on the next table sipping on beer and brandy, smoking freely. And we couldn’t help it but venture into the hopelessness of our corrupt court system. And how those two should not be there among us. They heard us and agreed laughing. It was all a jest to them. How lucky they got. We all knew that their luck emptied their parents and grandparents’ pockets. I was the only one, drunk enough to say it out loud. I could see the very girl behind the counter, eternal shame in her eyes, forever broken. For what!?
The crowd was not happy with me because I was clouding the mood on the sidewalk tables. That made me even angrier. My anger had history in itself. Roots even, growing for years and now reaching the potency required for rebellion. I was chronically angry with the limitations of my world, the chaos. Nothing had structure so I couldn’t control it. And all I wanted was control. Building structure required more than sticks, and the chaos required infinite energy to be controlled. I didn’t posses infinite energy. Hence anger!
I was waiting for an excuse to manifest my anger with fists. As we all got drunker, that excuse grew smaller. And finally it happened, a crooked look full of disrespect and condescension directed openly to me. I threw the first bottle and flipped the first table. Within the next few minutes everyone was holding someone’s throat or holding someone back. Three people held me back as my muscles burned with adrenaline of highest quality. I cursed and cursed. Landed a fist or two in the knot of people. But the rapists were drifting away from my fists.
The local bum was exploiting the cacophony by collecting half burned cigarettes from the floor and packing them in his pockets. He was not a real bum; he had a house but didn’t work or only worked when he really had too. He was just lazy and over the years of shameless acts, shame was meaningless to him. Hence his ridiculous ‘four to the floor’ crawl among raging drunks. All for cigarettes. That makes me think there must be something about cigarettes only fiends know.
Back to the fight. I pretended to calm down and make few steps back assessing my odds. The two rapists took the good advice from others to retreated. I could see them sneaking away glancing back at me cowardly. I circled the crowd calmly and made a run for them. They ran once they saw me. Then I made the fateful decision. I picked a half brick from a pile of garbage and threw it at them aiming only vaguely at their distant group of two. They didn’t have time to react or see the flying rock. When it landed to the back of the head of the younger of the two and he plunged face first on the concrete, time stopped. The other bastard stopped running, I stopped running, the crowd went quiet fists down, the world went silent and the present sucked us all in. Not for too long. Someone from the tables shouted and ran to the fallen bastard. Logic kicked in, life itself was at stake. The medics were called and the police were not late.
The next few days were a haze of interrogations, my father’s anger, and my mother’s tears.
The bastard made it all right. Major concision, bandaged head, loss of brain cells, but alive. And at the cafe tables within two weeks, telling the story as I am now to you. But different I am sure. The Rashomon Effect at its best.
My mother kept crying.
I was not allowed to leave the house until resolution.
My father and grandfather whispered and packed envelopes with large bills. My grandfather knew everyone and knew how to fix things. Everything was fixable he used to say. In a few days the envelopes had done their magic. My grandfather left without saying a word. My father said everything has been resolved and went to work. My mother made me promise that it will never happen again, and insisted that it would kill her if it did. I took that promise very seriously and I put violence behind me. To the point that I get anxiety when near violent events. I started avoiding people.
When it all sunk in and fermented inside me, it formed the main reason for me to leave home. As far as possible I wanted to go. I went to a college far in the city and rarely came back. Eventually I boarded a ship and traveled two continents over. Here in complete anonymity I live.
more by MILEN VASILEV
photograph by lifeofpix