4.2% ABV canned
“You know what today is the one-year anniversary of, right?”
Derek and I were shoe-horned into a packed bar on Second Avenue. It was 11:30 AM on Sunday. Outside, runners trotted by at mile 18 of the New York City Marathon. Inside, childish just-out-of-college Upper East Siders oozed into the empty space around us, stinking of B.O. and B-O-O-Z-E, most of them probably not having showered since Saturday night’s partying which may very well have ended just hours previous. We were quite possibly getting too old for this shit.
“Halloween? The Marathon? What?!” I had no idea what Derek was talking about.
“One year ago, Julie got hit by a car.”
I laughed heartily. Ah…yes. One of the craziest and ultimately most hilarious incidents I’ve ever been a part of. And Derek loved the story even more than me. He was there too.
That night one year ago had begun so innocuously. Two couples having a nice Saturday meal up at our beloved Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem. The men had drank beer, the women had gone for a bar specialty cocktail amusingly called the Donkey Punch. An ostensibly “girly” concoction made with three different types of rum, including 151, it packed quite a wallop but went down like a slutty Shirley Temple. After her second pint glass, I had warned Julie that she probably shouldn’t have another. But I’m no one’s mother so I didn’t bat an eyelash when she ordered a third. It wouldn’t be my hangover to deal with.
After dinner and drinks, the time nearing midnight, we headed back to 125th Street to snag a cab to get us back down the Upper West Side for some more partying. Derek, Shannon, and I walked west looking for a yellow ride, when a drunk-on-Donkey-Punches Julie called out that she thought she spotted one across the street. I paid no mind as she apparently darted across the four lanes of two-way traffic trying to make a tricky hail when…
I turned seconds too late, my mind having to process an incredible amount of information all at once. The girl I loved lay in the middle of the street, not moving. Shit strewn on the pavement around her, like a pinata had just been exploded by a fat Mexican kid with a broom handle. Up the block some hundred feet, the car that had seemingly hit her screeched to a halt. And mere yards from running over my beloved girlfriend was the MTA’s M101 bus. I rushed into the middle of the street, wondering if I was about to retrieve a corpse, stopping the bus from progressing.
I got to Julie and she seemed fine. Shook up but fine. I was stunned. It made no sense. I lifted her and Derek moved Julie to the sidewalk as I cleaned up the mess, grabbing her purse, the all-important Dinosaur doggy bags, and something else. I am a studied stoic and I rarely lose control of my mind and my senses despite adversity. No matter the pressure, I am usually able to think clearly. But for a minute or so my mind had betrayed me and my body was running on autopilot.
Finally, as I returned to Julie, Derek, and Shannon on the sidewalk, Julie crying, her nice coat tattered, but seemingly alright, I realized what the foreign object was in my hand–it was the sideview mirror of the car that had hit Julie. The mirror being fortunately the only part of the car that had grazed her.
And now, up the street, that car was gunning it backward in reverse. I saw bad things happening in our immediate future so I tried to usher us all out of there. I put my arm around Julie to support her, to console her, and more importantly lead us away from the scene and the still-reversing car.
The vehicle finally got parallel to us and as we continued to walk forward he reversed at the same pace. The driver was an early-60s African American male, his passenger, a slightly younger white woman, seemingly his wife. We refused to acknowledge them and soon she burst from the car.
“What the fuck were you thinking?!” she immediately started yelling at Julie, who was a rag doll in my arms, still too dazed to even look up and process things.
We didn’t acknowledge the woman and kept walking.
“You just ran into the middle of the lane!” she harumphed. “You could have killed both of us!”
I knew Julie was technically in the wrong, but she had indeed nearly been killed, and she was indeed completely shook up. Now was not the time to be yelled at. And after a moment, the woman realized her yelling was futile. She finally softened. “Well, is your girlfriend at least OK?”
“Yeah, she’ll be fine. Have a good night.” I handed her the mirror which I still held in my hands, having forgotten to discard it.
The women returned to her car. I thought this odd episode was finally over. Nope. Upon his wife returning with no good news and a dislodged sideview, the black driver of the vehicle fat waddled his way to us.
“You will pay me!”
“For what?!” I started ushering us faster toward the busier Twelfth Avenue to hopefully a cab and our escape.
“My mirror!!! I just got it repaired this week. It cost me $300! That’s the third time this month it’s been broken off!”
I truly felt bad for the guy, but let’s be honest, even if it was Julie’s fault, we weren’t going to cut him a check or give him some cash right then and there. He refused to leave us alone as we kept walking, trying to ignore him. He was yelling at us, pushing us, trying to stop us, demanding that we pay him.
Picture the scene: a middle class, distinguished-looking black gentleman in the heart of Harlem yelling at four white twenty-somethings as the witching hour approached and the freaks were about to come out. Things were definitely in his favor, an escape was becoming more and more difficult. I knew I had no choice but to completely flip the tables on him, something I am a master of.
I turned to the man. “Sir, you got a lot of nerve. Drunk-driving. Nearly killing my girlfriend when you swerved onto the sidewalk. And now you have the gall to come and ask us to pay for your criminal idiocy?! That’s insane!”
I pulled my cell phone out.
“I am calling my lawyer. After that I am calling the police. I’ll have you arrested, put in jail.”
As we kept walking, Derek trying his damnedest to find us a taxi, I put the phone to my ear and feigned a phone call to my “lawyer.” “Scott, it’s Aaron. Yeah, sorry if I woke you. I got this drunk fool up in Harlem who nearly plowed over Julie. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Sure. OK, you’ll have your buddy in the 25th head over? Great. Sounds good.”
I hung up and gave the man a cocky look like “Now what?” He totally bought my phony phone call and I saw a slight fear in his eyes, despite the fact that he had almost certainly not been drinking that evening. He now knew he had to up the ante himself.
“PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE! Just pay me! I am a sick man! I have a pacemaker! I can’t handle the stress! Just pay MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!”
He put his hands to his heart, hammily acting out a case of angina headed toward a heart attack. He wailed.
“Just pay me the $300! If I die because of this it will be on you! My blood is on your hands!!!”
We finally reached the intersection of 125th and Twelfth, shrouded by the above-ground 1 train, where stood a small gaggle of cute college-aged black girls shooting the shit, enjoying the warm evening. They stopped their gabbing, taking in the current scene. Four white twentysomethings seemingly trying to flee from a older black man grabbing his heart and crying out. We just looked guilty of…something.
I turned toward the black girls to explain myself, using my smoothest politician rhetoric.
“That man is drunk and he just hit my girlfriend with his car!”
They looked at the man spasming around like a maniac, they looked at kind-faced me, they looked at the sobbing and disheveled Julie.
“You should be ashamed of yourself!!!” they all screamed at the black man. “I’m calling the police,” another one of the girls said. “I’m sick of misbehaving black folks!” yet another one lamented. They looked furious like they wanted to rip the old man to shreds. I assured them that it was alright, no harm, no foul.
Just then Derek luckily hailed a cab and we piled in. As we pulled away, the black man was forced to accelerate things to his coup de grace. He fell to the sidewalk, supine, grabbing his chest and rolling around as if he was having a heart attack, one of the most histrionic acting jobs I’d ever seen in my life. The young black girls gathered in a circle around him, continuing to castigate him for his “drunk” driving, for nearly killing a beautiful young girl. A few feet away, still parked in the intersection, the black man’s wife read the newspaper, not even paying attention to the scene. I had a feeling her husband pulled this shit all the time and it was nothing new to her.
Back in the bar, in the present, Derek and I laughed at the story, one of our favorites, one that we had literally begun retelling and laughing at the second we were in the cab that fateful night, and one that Derek assured me we would be recounting to each other for the rest of our lives. Neither of us still spoke to our dates that evening, but they’d always live on in the memories of the event. Julie had ultimately been completely fine, a bruise or two on her thigh and ass, her jacket just in need of a professional re-stitching. Quite frankly, the worst thing that happened was that the violent jostling of the doggy bag had gotten barbecue sauce everywhere, ruining some great leftovers.
As we laughed, and back-slapped, a fat college kid wearing a terrycloth headband put his arm around me. He told us that he was celebrating the marathon by doing his own marathon of drinking that afternoon: twenty-six bars and twenty-six drinks. I told him I admired his youth and ambition. But he was only at bar three and was already wobbling and slobbering. Kids today. He bought me a can of Natty Light to go with his group’s order. I thanked him and tried to enjoy a brew I probably hadn’t drank since I was his age. It was horrendous. The taste of over-carbonated metallic pickle juice. Briny and watery. Absolutely disgusting. I couldn’t even finish half of the tallboy. We were indeed too old for this shit. We left and headed toward Third Avenue and a quiet, classier place befitting our raconteurial skills, to have a Manhattan or ten and regale each other with further stories of funny times past.