The next morning, I had made my rounds and was waiting in our favorite outdoor cafe for Susyn to return. For four days, we had made it our own, sitting through the early afternoon watching the tourists go by while we compared notes. From a table near the low stone wall that separates the patio from the narrow cobbled walk, I could see through a curtain of geraniums as I watched for Susyn’s return.
When I finally saw her, she was coming out of a cross street a block away, looking over her shoulder in conversation with a stranger. Something in her stance brought me fully alert. Her heels were tapping the cobblestones angrily. The stranger kept pace with her, but there was something wrong with his stride. His feet seemed to find the cobbles a bit sooner than his mind had anticipated. He did not exactly stagger, but he was by no means stable.
Not falling down drunk, but drunk nonetheless.
I rose and stepped over the low stone wall to wait on the sidewalk. Something black and old was rising up inside of me, compounded of remembered and half-remembered indignities.
When Susyn reached me, I turned her so that I stood between her and the stranger. Over my shoulder, I said, “Do you know him?”
“Not really. I met him an hour ago when I was showing Raven’s picture around. He has been following me since.”
His eyes met mine, and he tried to blink me into focus. He was further gone than I had thought. He said, “Wo sind sie?” and his breath would have taken paint off a wall.
Then he reached for me. It might have been an innocent move, but I don’t like to be touched by drunks.
I caught his right hand in my left, with my thumb in the cup of his palm, my fingers hard against the back of his hand, and rotated outward and downward. He winced. He should have cried out. Aikido locks are painful, but he was mostly anesthetized.
He jerked loose and I let him go. He staggered back a step and his face finally registered pain. He began to mutter obscenities, gradually growing louder, rocking from one foot to the other as he worked himself up to act.
I waited, letting the red haze build up inside me.
He threw a looping right. I stepped inside it, caught his collar with my left hand, broke his stance and dragged him forward in one rapid movement. At the same time I hit him in the side of the face. I caught his neck with that same hand and spun him in a tight circle. He lost what little balance he had and fell forward against the low stone wall. I stepped back and waited.
He rolled over on his hands and knees, and came up slowly, weaving and trying to find me with his unfocused eyes. I was aware of Susyn shouting at me, but it was distanced by my rage. He drew back his fist again. I hit him again as he threw his punch, a twisting blow to mid-sternum. He was coming in when I hit him. His ineffectual blow snapped the edge of my ear, and I felt the shock of my fist against his chest all the way to my shoulder.
His eyes rolled up and he sank bonelessly to the sidewalk. more tomorrow