Saturday, April 8, 2017

no mouth, little money and lots of concealed madness



“Stop moving,” I said.

My own voice sounded strange to me. Although I meant it as a gentle whisper - a quiet plea to the man to save himself from further suffering - the wind carried it differently. It was almost like hearing an angry demagogue through a spectral speaker in a panopticon.



He winced. And then spit in my face.


30 minutes earlier


A middle-aged man in a whitewashed gray t-shirt strolled into the terminal. When he pulled out the little ticket machine, I knew he was the ticketer.


So I took two long strides toward him and dispensed a back-handed slap on his left cheek.


He swiveled twice on his right heel, the ticket machine clattering to the ground and his head swayed like it lost its life force. After a few seconds, he crumpled to the ground.


Almost to the ground, to be more accurate. Before he hit the ground, some animation returned to him and he grabbed one of the railings you’ll find all the BRT bus stops and held himself. His face is inches from the floor.


The breeze was still that morning. It was 6:40 and the traffic along Ikorodu Road had started building. A school girl in the back of an SUV looked with mouth ajar. A grown man in skin jeans and faded tee-shirt doing a slap-induced pirouette on a Monday. She’s probably only ever seen things like this in the movies.


I too. The one who had slapped the poor man was surprised. I guess I didn’t know my own strength. The hope was that this heavyset man would take it on the chin and maybe try to retaliate. Having my slap knock his senses out was the last thing I expected.


“Arrgh,” my victim grunted.


I looked at him as though he should be ashamed of himself for having such miserable sense of balance. He had ruined the purpose of this whole show.


The point was that the slap would refresh his senses - rewire his brain to understand his responsibilities and take them seriously. But right then, he was just on the floor looking at me like I just left a giant turd on his front porch.


There is a look of death in his eyes now.


And what are you going to do, I thought.


He was up on his feet in a beat and was making his arm into an arc - he was going to return the favor. I smiled then. This big hapless bag of meat was going to slap me. I must have got the hapless part wrong.


Bad idea.  


I met his arching right hand with my back of my left arm, twisted and grabbed him just under his elbow while turning the inner side of his elbow towards my right palm.


“Arrgh!” He was in pain. Wuss, I thought.

I was doing all these methodically like you would at karate training for beginners. My hope was that he’d come to his senses and stop the aggression. His chi must have marked him for very specific sufferings that morning, because he brought in his left hand into the fray.


I saw that from miles away and with the edge of my right palm, I chopped at the bicep of the charging left arm. It went limp to his side.


By now, the little crowd at the BRT stop had grown into a little human mass. A man in a navy blue suit pulled out his phone to capture this moment. His big eyes twitching behind his low-budget 5-inch Tecno phone.


Most of them seemed to have forgotten it was a weekday and that I was beating up the man who was to sell them tickets. The tickets they needed to get to work.


Even though they didn’t say it, they agreed the ticketer deserved every punch to his face. They had always hoped in their collective hearts that this day would come. Someone mad enough would confront this madness and give the system or its representative their just desserts.


He struggled to free himself and I pressed harder on his elbow. I made to smash it in from under with the bottom of my right palm - a move that would break that arm cleanly.


It would be the end of aggression from him. But what purpose would that serve? I thought. He wouldn’t sell tickets again and I would have beaten a poor man for nothing. Why teach a man a lesson without giving him a chance to apply it?


“Stop moving,” I said.


My own voice sounded strange to me to me. Although I meant it as a gentle whisper - a quiet plea to the man to save himself from further suffering - the wind carried it differently. It was almost like hearing an angry demagogue through a spectral speaker in a panopticon.


He winced. And then spit in my face.


That certainly earned him a broken arm. I drew my right palm to deliver the joint-breaking smack.  


My prefrontal cortex must have been in an overdrive. Because then I began to wonder …


What about his family? I thought. He doesn’t look like he can afford a surgery by himself. A mother would have to pay for his stupidity. It would probably mean some of his sibling staying out of school for a session.


I won’t have that misfortune on me.


I twisted his arm back and pulled his face toward me while bringing my knee forward. His nose got a good rendezvous with my right knee and his head snapped back. I made sure it wasn’t too hard. Bleeding nose meant he won’t be able to sell tickets - also bad.


I pulled him closer and patted him on the cheek - the way some doctors do in movies to check if a victim is responsive.

He was responsive.


“Sell the tickets,” I whispered into his left ear.


This time, the wind didn’t carry my voice. This time, he was more amenable, too. He nodded and picked the ticketing machine. He looked like he was in a great hurry. Who knew big fat stroppy men could hurry so much?


The good book says a fool does tomorrow, what a wise man does today.  (Or was it John Ploughman who said that?)


If only the poor man left his house two hours earlier. He would not have kept people - including a mercurial runaway martial artist - waiting at his bus stop for one hour.


I pulled out my phone and hailed a Uber. The app tells me my Uber Select was four minutes away. I waited.


New passengers stepped onto the BRT tarmac and the big blue BRT buses swallowed them in batches while they threw side glances of suppressed appreciation my way. The poor man kept glancing furtively around hoping to not attract another whopping from a glass-faced psycho.


I wouldn’t be on the BRT again that day. Too many stupid people that might awaken the beast in you.


“Resist the devil and it will flee from you.” Yes. I’m sure that’s the good book this time.

I was resisting my demons. They won’t flee. At least they’d know to relax and wait till the next time they are willfully summoned.