Blood For My FriendMy scars are my business. This one I will tell you about because it is my favorite. The ones you can see, I might tell you about at 2 am after a bottle of merlot, on a night like tonight. The ones you can’t see, I will take to my grave.
This little beauty runs about 3 inches across my right forearm; if it were straight it would be 6 inches. It, along with the ten bead Rosary I carry in my right pocket, are the talismans that have kept me from jail these last 30 years. I am fifty now, and from time to time, in the middle of a tense meeting with a couple of $200 per hour suits, I unbutton my sleeve and take a look at the gift I received when I turned twenty. I look at this scar, and remember who I am, and make a conscious choice, how I will react.
I was in college. Putting myself through Trenton State, I became accustom to a different, more genteel way of life……..of thinking. One Thursday night, home on spring break, my friend Danny-boy stopped to get me, to go out cruising. The restaurant on route twenty-two where I worked to make money when home did not need me, so I was free to cruise with Danny-boy for the night. When he told me that we were ‘looking for somebody’ I missed the point. In college, when you looked for somebody, it was a good thing, here, in north ‘Jersey…. not so much. I was in the wrong mind set when Danny-boy picked me up. So after three or four beers at the local str*p club, we drove off in his late sixties ford Ecoline. His van was the prototype for the seventies van; button tufted vinyl ceiling, shag carpet floor and a polyester fur bed in the back, “for the ladies”. And we cruised, listening to Lead Zeppelin on his eight-track as we meandered through our home town. I was peaceful. I was with Danny-boy, my boy, my brother, my friend.
We drove past the bodega and the pizza parlor as we approach Jack’s tavern, a local shot and beer joint that was beneath even us. Dan cut the wheel a squealing a sharp right into the parking lot without slowing down. “There he is” he said, glancing at me. To our left, leaving Jack’s was a dark haired young man. Behind him walked his three friends. Stepping on the brake, he opened the door and jumped out. Looking out the open driver’s door, no driver, and the van still rolling, I reached over and slammed the b*tch into park and jumped out the right side. Running around the back, I saw Danny-boy already both fists on his prey with the three surprised companions just awakening to their friend’s predicament. The delay in stopping the van had an unplanned benefit in that they thought Dan was alone. ….Oops! The first guy had his back to me when I hit him behind his ear with a running right hand. The second turned to me in time. Now, my favorite move in these situations was a straight right with simultaneous right front snap or a cresent kick to the leading leg (I have a problem with my left eye and fight south paw). This works in 90% of situations, but this guy had seen it before. He unweighed the leg in time and raised his left arm to block so it took a quick left hook and a right uppercut to put him down. This bought number three time. He was already squared up as I turned left to face him. I went as before with a leading right with a kick. But this time, it was me that went down, a sharp pain entering my forearm, badly cut, and the dull thud to just above the groin put me to my knees. I was screwed. Looking up what I saw was my victorious opponent pulling back to ‘F’ me but good with a broken bottle in his right hand I could not defend against, when over my shoulder came Danny-boy with (I’ve never seen it before and will never see it again in a real life fight) a flying, spinning wheelhouse to this guy’s head. Sh*t, it was a thing of beauty. Bleeding, he dragged me up, sirens approaching, and threw me in the passenger seat in his van. Taking dirty towel from the back and wrapping my arm, we drove three towns over to Saint Elizabeth’s hospital (figuring the police may be looking local).
In the waiting room, my blood dripping on my sneakers, my good friend Danny-boy turns to me and says, “What the **** took you, anyway?”. To which I replied, “I was parking your f*cking van!” We looked like idiots laughing our a*ses off in the emergency waiting room, two o’clock in the morning, the white towel, now all red now, with my blood.
I haven’t seen Danny-boy in twenty five years. I would do it again tomorrow for him in a New York minute…. and he would do it for me. Such are the bonds of friendship. Such are the rituals of manhood. Reminded who i am by this jagged scar on my right forearm, along with other lessons, and the power of God, allow me to in times when I really can’t, to be a better man and to let it go.