3 days ago
Saturday, May 1, 2010
One Night in Hull (makes a hard man humble)
I'm thinking about my cousin today. My cousine. My brother.
There was a time, well, most of our lives until we both got over the mid-20s hump, that we were nearly inseparable. Now, I see him about once every couple of years, and talk to him only slightly more times than that. The memories and stories of our exploits could fill up a hundred blogs. Unfortunately, most of them I can't relate, as I don't wish to incriminate either of us, at least any more than we have already suffered. I don't know yet if these blogs are admissable in court. That same caveat applies to most of my last years in Vancouver as well, where my supposedly respectable position probably saved my ass on more than a few occasions. Good stories for the Sir John A, but not here.
But I do remember one bacchanalian night that is on my mind. It had been, in most respects, a usual weekday night in the early 90s. But I had reformed myself a bit by this point, after rolling my car deep into a farmer's field and walking away, largely unscathed, and seemingly having learned my lesson. Cousine was just beginning to become an engineer. Later that same term, he and I had a routinistic evening -- four or five hours of darts at the Duke of Somerset (RIP), the "tab" fluctuating from $5 to $100 a game. However, instead of the usual plaintive call to his girlfriend to pick us up, we made the portentous plan. Its only 1. Let's go have a nightcap until 3.
And over we go. Chez Henri. Oui, merci monsieur, for taking those ponderous winter coats from us. This place had class. It had booze. And it was open until 3. Everything was going swimmingly well. Until cousine had an idea while we sat at the bar (we were phantasmically drunk by all mortal standards, if perhaps not Glengarry county metrics). But not drunk enough to start sweatily mingling on the dance floor. Not yet.
The idea. Brilliant! Behind the bar was a collection of liquor unlike anything I had ever seen. "Let's order every shooter they have". Two by two, blow by blow. Somewhere during that process is the last memory I have until some indeterminate period later. Post-shooter satiation, we must have decided, tragically, to mingle amongst the sweating and predominantly Francophone hipsters and ravers. The heaving bosom of the room, the hermetic (and hermeneutic) circle of the Attic evening.
My next memory of that night, we are suddenly outside of the establishment. I am lying on the ground, feeling pain around my midsection. Then I get another kick in the ribs as I flail around on the January ice. Somewhere, I hear my cousine getting the living shit beat out of him. He enjoyed resistance, no matter the situation. That's just the way he was, and probably still is. The memory reel skips ahead a bit more -- I'm on the hood of a squad car belonging to Hull's finest. Then I'm in the back seat of that fine vehicle, my hands cuffed behind my back. "This is police brutality", I was screaming. Hull's finest got a good chuckle out of all that.
The upside of all this, however, is that there was a new jail in Hull. All shiny and brand new. New tin toilets, comfy cot. I hadn't slept that good in years. Took a while to fall asleep though, some dude was yelling and screaming all night. The voice was familiar.
When I woke up, I called for the guard to let me out. Over to the discharge desk -- thank fucking god, there was my wallet and keys. But where was my jacket? My King George hotel leather jacket? "You guys weren't wearing jackets when they brought you in", he told me in Fringlish. Fuck. What about my cousine? "We can't wake him up". Seems the comforts of the new Hull jail were too seductive.
I'm led to the front doors and let out into the blinding afternoon sun and biting cold of a January day. No jacket, and no money in my wallet. After what seemed like an eternity as my head throbbed and my entire body froze, a cab came by. I was able to persuade him to take me to an ATM, and then back to Ottawa. To the Mechanicsville basement that my cousine and his girlfriend shared with her uncle. I won't elaborate on him.
"Where's XXXX"? She refused to drive me back over to Chez Henri to pick up our jackets. When he wakes up and calls me, we'll drive over and pick him up. I couldn't wait that long. Cab #2 brings me back to the scene. I went to the ominous looking side door and rang the bell. After an agonizingly long wait, I hear heavy panting breath and savage snarls. The door never moved, but a small rectangular window slid open. I could see an impossibly immense figure, struggling to hold back two rottweilers who seemingly desired to tear out my throat. I nervously explained the situation to the doorman. I felt like I was trying to enter the German Democratic Republic circa 1977. After disappearing for a few minutes, he returned to the door and ordered me to return later. When? Later!
Later arrived. Cab #3 took me back to the scene. I repeated the ritual. Come back later.
Even later arrived. Still no word from cousine. Cab #4 took me over. I got in this time, and was forced to make the humiliating walk to retrieve the jackets. Many large burly brutes watched my every move. Back across the bridge to the basement apartment. Cousine calls. Girlfriend and I go over. He emerged with a couple of black eyes and other miscellaneous wounds. He woke up on the floor of the cell, by the little tin toilet, with the mattress flattening him against the wall. So that was their remedy for his wailing, I guessed.
Turns out I had a class/seminar that morning that I obviously missed. It was my favourite class, 388 -- Historical Theory and Method. The week after I had an interesting narrative to tell, didn't I Lauzzy? I will see my cousine this summer, and we'll have a few beers, and remember this, and a hundred other stories. I still wear that jacket, after all these years. It could tell you some stories.