From the lowest vestige of my body, blood flowed and churned up toward my brain. Every extraneous and extra cell flooded into each capillary and vein headed to the central processing core to provide extra oxygen to power the deliberations. My neurons flashed and roared, lighting up the grey matter like a major city on New Year’s Eve. My face fell slack and I outwardly paused from the flurry of activity.
It seemed clear that the offer was a trick. It was exactly the type of trick that I had run into before. I was too canny for that now. I was older and wiser. I wasn’t going to say anything. I’d take my chances with the record. My silence couldn’t hurt the facts. There were witnesses; drunk witnesses, but even they would have to recall the cage match that had been the last act on the card. In that last dark alley and recess, however, there was a smidgen of doubt and temptation. I had to acknowledge that I was being bitter and cynical.
There was the distinct possibility that I was letting my past write my present, and by default, my future as well. If that was the case, I would trap myself in a continuous loop of failure. In this situation, I would have learned nothing at all, and in an ugly twist, deserved to be jailed for my stupidity. If I could walk out of this situation, with nothing other than the scars of the memories, it would be the best twist of fate ever. It just seemed like such a fickle and ephemeral offer, sure to collapse once I placed all of my hopes in its hands.
“Well?” The first cop asked again. In that last second, all analysis fled with the blood as it cycled through my heart.
“It was self-defense.” I blurted out suddenly, rolling the dice.
“How so?” The first one leaned in. I then took a deep breath, and laid out the story as it had transpired. There was a pause at the end, as they both looked at each other, while I tried not to think twice about my choice.
“Alright.” The second one said. “Let’s breathalyze you, and hopefully, you can be on your way.”
I blew a perfect zero. Then, for the first time, I was treated with a little deference, and asked formally if I wanted to press charges. That moment passed quickly. It was then strongly suggested that pressing charges would not be in my perceived best interests. Not surprisingly, I elected not to press charges. Then, with severe admonitions not to be in such a situation or any other illegal situation ever again, my meager possessions were returned. I was then told to “get the hell out”, which I did quickly. On the street outside the jail, the air had never felt as pure as it flowed in and out of my lungs, as my body shook with relief.
Minutes later, I realized that my wallet was completely empty of anything useful other than a driver’s license. I had no assets. I was stuck downtown in the odd hours of the morning, in a pre-cell phone era. I had to find a payphone to make a collect call. I called Mysterious first. He was at his house. He was very apologetic. He assured me that he would come get me, and take me where I needed to go. I needed to go to the hospital, where I required an even dozen stitches to close the flesh wound, and would later pay out of pocket for the visit because I didn’t want my parents to find out about the altercation.
Mysterious then lent me a new shirt, and we then journeyed to Denny’s, where we watched the sun crest the Eastern hills, eating pancakes quietly. It was an awkward affair. I wanted to wring his neck. I couldn’t believe he hadn’t backed me up in the brawl. I was additionally in shock that he had completely failed to mention that the police had arrived, and had left me there to be arrested. As the plates were being cleared, I felt that I could talk to him without venting hot frustration in a bellowing tone.
“What happened back there?” I said, trying to keep my voice level, a real feat.
“What?” He began, and then segued off awkwardly, giving me a pseudo-apology, “..besides, don’t be so upset. You probably would have done the same.”
“What?!?” I hissed, before I stopped evenly. “No. I wouldn’t have done that.”
There wasn’t anything else to say after that. We parted oddly in the parking lot. I talked to him once again, but it was the last time I saw him and his crooked grin.