Learning from Mikey
WOW!? I looked up and saw Matt standing over me as he was pushing Mikey away.
Get up and out of the way quick!
How long had I been on the ground? How long could it have been? If Mikey's boots had landed to the ribs and head? Naah. I'd be gone. Matt must of moved quick. Couldn't a' been long, but he had to come around or over the bar, and I didn't know which...
I got up a little slow counting on Matt...I don't know why he stepped in, and I wasn't sure how long he'd stay between us. Matt might a' stepped in 'cause he was the bartender on duty. Might of been cause we were friends. Bar friends, anyway.
But, I moved the hell back and out of range as I got up. Took a quick look around. Yeah, still just the three of us in the place. And, it looked like Matt succeeded in convincing Mikey that I wasn't worth killing at this point in time, at least not with Matt there. Feint praise I guess, but it worked.
[Note to self: Lower threat level from 'currently taking damage' to 'don't know when its going to come again'.]
But I was learning. I don't much remember what was said. I know Matt wound up on his side of the bar, and me and Mikey sittin' at the end of the bar with fresh beers in front of us, and our backs to the pool tables and door. But Mikey and I weren't worried about the door. The threat was each other. And I was learning.
I don't know if you 'can be' dazed, and simultaneously operate on a seriously higher level of awareness or not, but I sure as hell was. My mind was racing. Hell, Id just been blind sided. Now, I knew exactly where Matt was behind the bar. I knew it was just the three of us in the place, and that I'd know the instant the air currents changed from the door cracking to the outside. I knew where each hand was relative to each beer mug, each pool cue, and each pool ball. I knew exactly where Mikey's hands were, and where his knees were. I was calculating how fast I could grab the my mug, and hit him in the face vs the time needed for a straight punch below his right set of ribs vs moving to grab a cue off the wall or a couple of balls off the table. All that training, and it was finally making sense. I was learning.
It started as a friendly game of pool, you know. A couple of bucks, no big deal. But that was before the awareness started. Yeah. 'Cause all of a sudden I'd found Mikey's button, and I knew it. And man, I played it. I never beat Mikey head to head. He was good. He was a 6 on that '7 scale' they use for bar league and I was a three. But I found a button, and I started to tease it. It was kind of the usual shit, but it was working. "Nice shot; oh man, that should have gone in", and "man, I don't believe that dropped". Then it got to the point that Mikey knew it. He knew I was Playing him and I knew it. The awareness was there way before the trouble started. I was learning.
You'd a' thunk, I'd a' been smart of enough to drop it. To play the game straight from that point on and let the chips fall wherever. It was only two bucks. It'd of been smart. I knew Mikey. Mikey was a carpenter, thug, fighter, burglar, and rumors had it that he'd done a couple of hold ups. Good rumors. I'd also seen the last guy he'd jumped in the alley out back, and that was over 'bout nothin. The guy didn't look so good, and quit coming into Dotty's. So, it wasn't like I didn't know Mikey. And I was learning.
But it was the power that seduced me. That and the beer, I guess. But I kept it up. Both of us knowing what I was doing, knowing what I was doing, I mean, I knew what I was doing. I was poking sticks at the tigers. And the tiger knew it, and there was no fence. Sounds like one of those stupid animal shows, but I just kept kneedling Mikey. And, man he knew it. Hell, I could see him starting to boil, but I couldn't stop. It was the power. And I was learning.
I won. I was wary at first. I mean, I wasn't an idiot. But about the time I took my first swig of beer that I bought with Mikey's money, I was on the floor.
So now, I'm looking at Mikey and learning, and he smiles. And, I know that he knows where my head is. We're both in tune. We both know that it can happen at any moment, and second place loses. There ain't no mulligans here. I'm learning and he knows I'm learning and I know he knows. And it goes on. Like I said, 'dazed and at a heightened awareness'.
So somehow we wind up going back to my apartment, a subdivided old shotgun, behind a fire station and on the wrong side of the MARTA tracks from a country club neighborhood. We smoked some weed. Mine I think. Finished off a twelve pack. Talked. The whole time knowing that this was what it must be like. You don't know if the guy is a friend, or waiting for an opportunity. What will it take for this situation to escalate? One of us could die tonight. It was real. I knew Mikey...
I knew I could kill Mikey, and I was thinking about it. This wasn't any class. I could kill him to avenge the slight of blindsiding me - pretty much a recognized offense on the streets since Bogart. I could kill him because I felt like it. I might have to kill him at any moment in self-defense, and I could just kill him. No big deal in its own way. I knew at that moment at the bar when we sat back down, that I could kill. And, I could kill Mikey, and live with it. I learned that night. And I knew that Mikey knew that I learned.
I only partied with Mikey one or two times after that night. It was different. I'd learned and he'd taught me. You're always vulnerable. It takes nothing to strike at a few points on the human body and do serious damage or kill outright. And, I'm capable of the same, I knew that. I knew the points of vulnerability: 15lbs pressure here does this, 15lbs pressure here does this, and you can kill a man with...I'd learned all that. But now I knew what it was like to spend time in the zone.
Besides, being around Mikey after that, was just too fuckin' stressful even if you learned alot.