John was working hard to turn over a new leaf after leading a rather wild youth. Taxi drivers are always a huge problem; driving recklessly, cutting people off, and never apologizing for doing so. Things had to snap one day.
We had just met John at the bar. He had his arm in a sling, and was behaving extremely calmly and satiated, like most people did after a marathon sex session.
“I thought you couldn’t fight everyone,” teased Eric.
“You can’t! But, every so often you can choose a couple of unlucky muthas to take things out on.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“A taxi driver called me an English fag,” he replied.
“But – ” I was about to say it was unlikely a taxi driver could say that in English.
He explained. “The fucker ran me off the road and so i shouted ‘Fuck you.’ Ordinarily that should be the end of it as he did actually knock me off my bike – but, no, he actually got out of his car and started walking towards me with a steering lock expecting me to apologize. And the worse thing is he is like five-foot eight and eleven stone, and he is going to try and bully me. That is why i say he obviously spotted my Englishness.
“Anyway, he thinks better of it and starts to go back to his car – and that was the best thing because nobody wants to fight. Then it slipped out – or up: a really loud fuck you and a middle finger. As soon as I saw the finger I hated myself – I really didn’t want to do that, I had been proud of my ability to keep my mouth shut on the road in the face of overwhelming odds, but it seems an easy life, staying out of trouble, and concentrating on my job were not so important to me, I needed to teach the guy a lesson, show him I was not scared. Anyway, as a steering lock was swinging towards my head i decided to give myself a lecture the next day. I twisted my elbow up and straightened the other fingers on my left hand to join the middle one…”
We listened in admiration as he described how he took the steering lock off the guy and beat him severely with it.
John continued, “Anyway, it ain’t fuckin’ worth it. I’ve got a broken arm – and ‘ad to sleep in the park with it – And ‘ad to tell my school I fell off my motorbike and take a couple of days off to let the swelling go down. Fuckin’ idiot, I am.”
He explained he had been only two minutes from his home so, when the taxi driver’s friends arrived with baseball bats and machetes, he had had to make a tactical withdrawal, deciding it best not to go there.
“Why didn’t you go to the hospital?” asked Eric, a bit bewildered by what he was hearing.
“You think I have shit for brains? Go to the hospital and bump into the guy and his mates…Have to run around a hospital fighting, or worse they report it to the police and I am on the local news. I am a respected member of the teaching profession.”
He took a gulp of his beer. “That is what I love about the Taiwanese – a student’s mother’s brother has a clinic, and I sit there with my swollen, bruised hands from pounding them into that fucker’s head, and I tell the guy, I fell off my motorbike, and he gives me that ‘it ain’t my business’ look and plasters me up.”
For all his bravado, John was annoyed with himself that he had allowed himself that relapse when he could have walked away. He was hoping this was it, he was hoping he had got things out of his system for a long time.