Features, Column

A Column about Appreciating the Finer (and Fighty) Things in Life

I’m no stranger to witnessing fights, and I’ve come to savor them—to appreciate their boldness and subtle touches, as one would a fine wine. Their aromas differ distinctly, depending on their environment—at times hints of flowers, or slight nuttiness might invade the witness’s senses, other times they’re characterized with a tinge of tobacco, or smokiness. Some are angular, with the puncher hitting the punchee in specific places with high impact. Others are buttery, with a few slip-slips, then a punch that hits right in the middle. Some are crisp, pairing well with a sundress and hot day. The best, in my opinion, are medium-bodied, with a fruity finish.

It was mid-April, and I found myself on a date. We had consumed copious amount of sushi at a run-down, hole-in-the-wall place next to a bookstore that had rolls which were set on fire when placed on the table. The date mirrored the ensuing relationship—flashy, cheap, and too long-lasting. But on that mid-April night, it was everything. After dinner, we—young, stupid, and drunk on the Allston air (or high on all the rat poison?)—began to walk aimlessly, with a clear purpose: dessert.

We pounded pavement like madmen, moving quicker than our nervous first-date words could, until we were halted at a crosswalk. We stood on the sidewalk with a small group of silent strangers, all with the same goal of crossing the street without losing a leg or life.

“Oh you must think you’re reaaaaaaal coool, carrying that beer with you,” pierced the air.

The crowd turned to look at a man (who appeared to be homeless, but I don’t judge), leaning up against a building—one leg propped on the wall, sagging backpack laying grievously on the ground, backwards baseball cap slightly off kilter, slyly eating a piece of chocolate cake out of a to-go container.

Confusion permeated the dark atmosphere like a singular breeze pierces a stagnant summer day—all eyes on the mysterious speaker.

“All you do is drink beer all day. All you do is get drunk all day,” he said, shaking his plastic fork in the direction of a young boy (who appeared to be in a fraternity, but I don’t judge) donning a gray patagonia half-zip, khaki shorts, and new balances, with a case of Natural Light in his arms.

The boy froze in his frocket, now certain the comments were directed at him.

The speaker walked across the crowd so that he was standing beside his target. They both tensed, then all at once the yelling erupted.

“You don’t even know me man!”’s and “oh I know you!”s were exchanged.

My date moved in front of me, shielding me from the imminent danger before us. I swooned. Frat Boy crossed the street before the light changed—it was dangerous, and bold. Homeless Man trudged forward right behind him, walking with his shoulders forward and his brow furrowed—cake in one hand, dingy backpack in the other.

The red lights glared on the pavement as a third voice entered the scene.

“Ohhhhh he’s not going to cross. Ohhhhh he’s doing it. OHHHHH no they’re not,” the narrator said.

I looked to see a woman in her mid-50s wearing leggings that were too big for her, and the same exact hair gel as Guy Fieri. Her legs vibrated slightly when she spoke, she had been designated to provide commentary for the scene, rightfully aware that to watch the fight would not be enough—we needed someone to tell us what was happening.

“Ohhhhh you better run. Ohhhh he’s getting ready,” the narrator said.

Frat Boy and Homeless Man had a new, but still markedly unfriendly verbal exchange across the street. Something the homeless man said struck the frat boy’s eardrums, commanding him to put down the case of Natural Light. Homeless man squared up, chocolate cake still in hand. They began to battle, the frat boy pushing and shoving as Frat Boys do, the homeless man getting a little creative with it and swinging his backpack like a nunchuck—one hand on his weapon, one hand holding his cake. They went back and forth like this for a while, as the narrator began to speak a indistinct, more guttural language, “ooof,” “ahhhh,” “mmmmhf,” “huuuuuuh.”

Out of nowhere, something was awoken in the homeless man, maybe he had a chip on his shoulder or maybe he was Kappa Sigma and sensed Sigma Chi in his enemy—who knows, but a switch clicked in him. He was man on the edge, you could see it in his step back and slight hesitation. It was a watershed moment, a turning point, a divine revelation.

As the red “stop” hand faded into history on the street perpendicular to the fight, my date and I began to cross, leaving our group behind but keeping our eyes on the brawl. Following suit with our stride, the homeless man threw the chocolate cake he had nurtured for so long down onto the ground like a red-headed step child (I can say it because I am one), and took a unimpaired swing at Frat Boy.

All I remember is hearing the narrator’s voice.

“NOT THE CAKE,” she screamed.

“Why would he ruin the cake,” she said with tears in her eyes to the man next to her. “I just don’t understand why he threw the cake.”

He looked at her, offered no console, and walked away, leaving her standing there, hanging, like the little tail in the undercase “g” on a sheet of loose leaf.

Now, I’m fully aware that not everyone enjoys a fine vino. But, when the flavors become a little hazy and everything becomes a little blurrier, even the biggest critique of fermented grapes can find a little enjoyment.  

Five Guys: 2:30 a.m., Thursday night (Friday morning), we sat munching on burgers and fries, in a trance-light state. My friends’ eyes became fixed on another table, after looking for a while, his sides began to split. I slowly moved my gaze from my gooey Oreo shake to see five guys who ordered four bags of fries. Instead of eating the fries out of the bag, like people do, they had decided to dump all four bags to form a mountain of fries in the middle of the table like it was the most normal thing in the world. Let me repeat that, they dumped four bags of fries directly onto a partially naked (only clothed in filth) table that had probably been yakked on ten minutes ago—then cleaned with a dirty, wet rag—and retained a thin layer of sludge from the meals of our forefathers.

As they began to ravenously eat the fries (after coating them in various diseases), my friend began to laugh. They looked over a little suspiciously, but then quickly looked back at the spread before them, shaking it off. In a sudden and decisive moment, one of the five guys decides to take ketchup and mayo and pour them out healthily over the pile.

That’s when the tables really turned.

My friend fell out of his chair. One of the five guys stood up to say something that I can imagine would’ve gone like, “What the h*ck are you laughing at?” But instead he vigorously hit the table with his hip, knocking all of the fries onto the ground.

The laughter, once somewhat controlled, became pandemonious .

The five guys were furious, and started after my friend, claiming he had knocked over their table of fries, even though he was miles away when it happened—which took the situation from funny to hilarious. One-sided tensions flared as they took turns lunging at my friend and his friends.

At that point, the employees of Five Guys had to get involved. One particularly grizzly fellow strolled over and yelled “Get the F—k out” to the five fry guys whilst sticking his hip out and filming the brawl for his Snapchat story.

“F—k your mother,” one beefy antagonist said to my friend.

He replied momentarily only with more laughter, and eventually choked out, “Nooo, not my mother,” raising his hands in faux surrender.

The five guys were reluctantly escorted out of Five Guys and we were all feeling good, but it was soon to be revealed that we had won the battle, but not the war.

After copious celebration inside the locked doors of Five Guys, we ordered an Uber home. But, we should have taken queue from the ominous nature of quiet, because as soon as we stepped outside, an ambush ensued. Each of the five guys targeted one of the guys that was with us, in a giant heap on the sidewalk.

My only other girl playing witness to the amped-up situation and I stood by the curb yelling insults, and cheers of support, in between shoving fries—the Helen of Troy in this situation—into our mouths. As our SUV Uber approached, we realized our fighting friends needed us and started throwing legs and arms aggressively into the situation.

All I heard next was “What are you guys thinking?”

We looked at each other in our heels, mascara and lipstick still perfect—an honest and unspoken acknowledgement that we couldn’t figure out what we were thinking, but before we could talk about it, we were rushed into the getaway car and drove off into the night, leaving the fry-mongrels to pick up the pieces.  

A good fight is in no way necessary to a good time, but has transitory effects. It can turn a bland night into something with more character and zest. It’s the difference between a filet mignon and a filet mignon with the bold and brash tannins of a Bordeaux, and the difference between sea bass and sea bass with the crisp citrus of a Pinot Grigio. There’s something about seeing the inner turmoil of others become physical that elevates the id, giving the witness a sense of superiority, much like the feeling one gets when putting their lips to a crystal glass full of lavish wine.

March 15, 2018

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