The venue was on the first floor of an old brick building. The exterior had withstood the ravages of time with dignity, but the interior was severely decayed. The carpet was brown, stained, and bunched up into waves in spots. Plaster fell off in chunks from poorly placed supports. The whole place gave an impression of absolute neglect.
They arrived in twos and threes and fours, shook hands and then sauntered off to the mall to eat the equivalent of Chinese food. Tattoos, newly etched, marked the passage of time since their last rendezvous. A reaper, brass knuckles, a spider, the words ‘integrity’ in cursive script. All at a time and in a place where such symbols still meant something. It’s hard to remember that far back, but its true. Their dress was spare and threw into contrast the drawings on their skin.
The mall was half as old as the venue, not nearly as empty, but just as sad. A subterranean, tile-ensconced hallway, cacophonous with the small sounds of consumerism. Its alcoves sold graphic tees or Magic the Gathering cards, managing to appear neither inviting nor threatening. The floor tiles were so slick and polished they threw their reflections back up at them defiantly.
Eventually their meanderings led them to the structure’s physical center: a font of moving water whose bottom was obscured by a thick layer of quarters. In their twos and threes they drifted here, the way flotsam collects in an eddy. Arms crossed or in pockets they feigned indifference. In fact, they were the most important thing in the world to each other.
Eventually it was time and they all sauntered back to the venue. The music had already started. From the outside, the brick walls dampened its sound to an indistinct and monotone hum. Upon passage through the entryway, this hum exploded into a thunderous and violent regalia. The sound was analog and masculine.
The room’s occupants were arrayed in tight formation along its edges, creating a circle around its center. It was so crowded they couldn’t move without asking permission of their neighbor. Inside the circle were boys and men both, whirling their arms behind their bodies, hands in tight fists. This done in syncopation to the music and occasionally punctuated by a donkey or roundhouse kick. Observing the group as a whole and not focusing on any one individual they appeared to be a group of toys spinning furiously and in close proximity to one another, held upright by stolid centripetal forces.
One individual in particular drew energy to himself through his singular velocity and the great number of particles he displaced. A big man with the muscular physique of an incarcerated chimpanzee, he gleefully skipped along the periphery of the circle, pushing hard against the faces of those who made up its circumference with one large, brutish hand. Occasionally he lashed out with a short kick or elbow into the wall of bodies, but those who composed it were ready for him and either blocked his strike or moved out of its trajectory. Occasionally the recipient was caught unawares and superficially wounded, at which point the chimp man would force his target to endure an obscene, goofy grin until the victim eventually bowed and shook his hands in an amiable gesture of conciliation.
In this way the evening advanced, until a slight anomaly altered the night’s proceedings. This anomaly was in the form of a man immediately identifiable as alien to the others there gathered. He had long, blond dreadlocks whose tips reached the small of his back. His shirt was black mesh and through it you could see his wiry and hairless upper body. His baggy pants ended around his shins. They were festooned with countless pockets, zippers, and metal loops. He stomped past the unofficial guards at the venue’s entrance in his Doc Martin’s, completely oblivious to his environment. His face appeared crazed. He drew the ire of the room in the same way the chimp man drew its admiration.
It took less than a minute for their two bodies to collide. It wasn’t obvious whether the dreadlock man had consciously committed an error, but his movements were clearly out of sync. Where the others blended into one violent maelstrom, he incited a vacuum of space around himself, like a shark in a school of fish. His very presence was an affront to the cultural homogeneity of the venue, yet he was not appropriately apologetic. Perhaps he was suicidal. In either case, the chimp man began to pound him with furious blows from his formidable arms. At this point, dreadlocks had at least enough sense to become scared. He hastily retreated to the exit, helped by foes on all sides who shoved and punched him along his way. Once outside, he made an attempt to turn on one of his attackers, only to be knocked off his feet. Like hyenas they rained their frustrations down on him, everyone getting his kicks in.
Eventually, the beating abated, and the dreadlocked man slunk off, blood dripping from the side of his mouth. The music resumed. In fact, it had never stopped.