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Twisting all the bad things into good

Nov 25, 2011

The Nitty Gritty, Part 19: The Trivial Pursuit of Survival on an Ocean of Fire and Brimstone

            "They're dreadfully fond of beheading people here;
           the great wonder is, that there's anyone left alive"
               Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

            My eyes are closed. I'm waiting for Yakuza to put me out of my misery with his samurai sword. I don't waste my last moments praying.
            I hear Squeak's voice.
           "Alright, come one now. Buddy's had enough", he tells Yakuza.
            Handjob let's me loose. I drop to the boat deck. I look up and see Squeak with his arm holding back Yakuza.
           "Buddy's alright", he tells him.
            I hear DJB laughing.
           "Aww, Squeak. He was just testing him. He wasn't gonna do anything" he says.

            Squeak pulls me up and sits me in a chair. I am emotionally drained. I want to cry in frustration, but I don't have the energy. I put my hand on the back of Squeak's neck and put my forehead to his. Without words, I thank him. He says that he won't be able to help anymore. He tells me that he is sorry before he walks away.
            I look up and see him walk into the cabin with his head down. DJB shakes his head in disgust at him while he whispers in Yakuza's ear. DJB tells me to listen up because I'm not getting this boat ride home for nothing.

           I knew that DJB set up street fights for money. I had been there. It sickened me. It showed how empty his life was, no matter how much money he had. He enjoyed putting up the money  watch guys beat the shit out of each other in backyards and boatyards so he could post the videos online.He always ended up paying his own guys that he brought to fight.

           There were no cameras around, but I was told I had to fight. It was not going to be filmed because someone was going to die. Winner gets $10,000 per fight, loser gets their dead body thrown into the ocean.

            I can't believe what I'm hearing. No time to ponder before a bald guy who looks like a Mexican gangbanger by his tats emerges from beneath the cabin. I didn't have time to say that this was not a fair fight before he punched me in the jaw. I dropped to the deck once again.
           In Spanish, he kept calling me the same word and it was not amigo.
           In English, he told me he hoped I was ready to die.
           This vato was as mean as he was strong.
           I was neither.
           I was nice.
           I was weak.
           I was getting choked out from behind.
           I could not breathe.
           I could not talk my way out of this one.
           I could not defend myself.
           I struggled to stay conscious.
           I reached my arms behind me trying to grab his head.
           I saw the IPOD player on the deck. Since I had the same one, I knew that unless you took an axe to it, it was pretty much indestructible. Instead of fighting back, I kept reaching for it. I finally used my foot to pull it towards me. I picked it up and with both hands and as hard as I could, I swung it over my shoulder and hit him directly across the bridge of his nose. He let go of his choke hold. I turned to see him stumble backwards with both hands covering his bloody and broken nose. Before he could take his hands away from his face, I knocked him to the deck. As he laid on his back, he again started telling me that I was dead. I put my knees over his shoulders to hold him down. I drove the IPOD player into his face over and over until he was unrecognizable.

           I killed someone.
           I wanted to vomit.
           I dry heaved.
           I had nothing to throw up.
           DJB clapped. He told me that he never knew I had it in me. He and Yakuza exchanged money.
           On my hands and knees, I try to get my breath back as the boat deck filled with blood.
           Why am I putting myself through this?

           I realize then what the new new name of the boat means. It is suddenly so obvious.
           If Pilate Overturned Death Sentence.
           It did not take a Jesuit to decipher it's meaning.
           Everyone on this boat was going to Hell.
           The only question was in what order?
           I continued to fight. Every time I was over matched. The only way I survived was by unleashing all the rage I had built up inside.  Every time I wanted to give in to my exhaustion, I found something inside that I never knew I had. I could never have imagined being capable of such brutality. A person could never know until they were put in the position.
          I thought of the Coliseum. I thought of the disgusting acts that served as entertainment.  I had no desire to take part in some gory blood sport. I was not like some gladiator fighting for glory. If anything, I was like some scared Christian facing the lions. Instead of letting myself be persecuted, I became one of the beasts I had been thrown to.
           The equivalent of those evil emperors were getting off on this transformation. After every kill, they laughed. They never allowed me enough time to catch my breath to tell them I give up. As soon as it was over, security would throw the body off the side of the boat. Before I could ponder the fact that I had just taken someone's life with my bare hands, I was being beaten upon by the next opponent. I started every fight from my hands and knees.
           I don't have a clear enough recollection of the other fights to write about them. I only remember being told I was up to $70,000.
           I had fought and killed 7 men.
           I kept telling them I did not care about the money. I did not want to do this anymore. I just wanted to go home.
           They didn't care. They would just tell me I was alright and to get up.
            I try, but I can't.

            They say it's time for a new game. They tell me that since I'm smart I will like this game. I wish I had the energy to kill both of these mother fuckers. Nothing would make me happier than beating them to their deaths at their own game. A game they could never survive themselves.
            They tell me that there is going to be trivia added to the game.
            Trivia? My mind and body are beyond exhaustion and they want me to answer trivia and fight?
            They explain the rules.
            A trivia question is read.
            The IPOD player then gets tossed across the deck.
            First person to get control of it gets to answer the question.
            If you answer the question wrong, you have to fight.
            If you answer correctly, the other guy dies by gunshot.
            This does not sound like a fun game.
            What kind of twisted psyche comes up with this kind of bizarre competition involving brains and brutality.
            Why not a spelling bee and a sword fight?
            Which one of these sick fucks thought up such a sick game?
            The sick fuck in question was me. This game was a product of my own mind. I was making up the rules of a game I would be playing against myself.
            I  was both sadist and masochist.
            T stepped out on deck. He was another cameraman and had been a good friend when we worked together. T was a Cuban who never stopped his fast talking.
            He saw me collapsed on the deck. He walked over and helped me up.
            I told him I could not do this, not with him. He said we didn't have a choice. I told him that they couldn't make us try to kill each other. He said we wouldn't have to. They would do it for us. We had to play or else we both died.
           "What about your wife and son?" I ask.
            He shrugged his shoulders. He said he needed money.
            I am disappointed to know he is here by choice. It helps me forget any friendship we once had years ago.

            DJB tells us to get ready. I know T is not going to hold back. I'm bent over, with my hands on my knees to hold myself up. I know that I can't survive another fight. I'm too drained, emotionally and physically All I can do is summon every ounce of strength I have and try to get that IPOD player and hopefully I will know the answer to the trivia question. If I don't get to it first, I am dead whether he answers correctly or not.
            We are shoulder to shoulder, like two nervous sprinters waiting on the starting gun.
            Handjob stands off to the side, ready to toss the IPOD player. Some thug I don't know stands next to DJB and cocks a shotgun. DJB pulls a card from from the stack in his pocket.
           "Here we go". He reads from the card."What is the name of the Tom Stoppard play centered around 2 minor characters from Hamlet?"
            Handjob tosses the IPOD case towards the deck. Before it lands, T and I lunge forward. I throw my shoulder into T and dive towards it. My knee scrapes the deck as I slide on the blood and wrap my arms around the case like I was recovering a fumbled football.
            DJB flips the card and shows it to Yakuza.
            They look at each other, as if there is anything to discuss. As if either of these scumbags know anything about theatre. I know I am right because after all, I chose this question.
           "Nope" DJB tells me.
            The thug points the shotgun at me. I hold the IPOD player over my face as if it could protect me.
            DJB looks at the thug and nods. The thug shoots T in the chest and he flips backward over the back of the boat. I remember thinking about his wife and son, and how they will never know what happened to him.

            I realize that they have no intentions of letting me off this boat alive. They've just been waiting for me to be killed off since the first fight. I had killed off just about everyone who worked for them. I had no value to them as anything but a fighter, but they knew I would never fight again after I got off the boat.
            I laid flat on my back, still clutching the IPOD player, while they talked to each other. I hurt my knee when I dove. I raised it up to see that my jeans were torn open exposing a huge bloody gash.
            I heard them tell me it was time to get up and that I only had one more fight.
           "I'm done". I've been done. I had nothing left. I would not be able to even defend myself any longer.
            They tell me that I can't be done. I had $80,000 coming to me and I had to fight this one last time or I'd get nothing. It would be double or nothing. I would either walk away with 160k or I would not walk away at all.
           "Keep it. I don't care about the money", I tell them. "I'm finished".
           "I don't think so", DJB says. "You got one more. If you don't get up, he's just gonna kill you where you're laying so you might as well get up".

            Out of the cabin comes the most intimidating person I had ever met. A black guy with a bald head and huge beard with muscles on top muscles. I compared my fist with his one day. His was twice the size. I had seen him fight may times. I had watched him destroy guys who would have killed me on my best day. This was far from my best day.
            Even though I had no chance, I pulled myself up. It took everything I had.
           "I can't win" I tell them. "He's gonna kill me with one punch".
            They knew that. That's what they were waiting for.
            He started coming towards me with his fists up. I could not even raise mine, let alone land a punch.
            I wanted to tell them I would see them all in Hell. I didn't even have the strength for that. I stumbled backwards until I felt the side of the boat behind my legs. I let myself fall overboard.
            I could hear them voicing their disappointment at missing out on my death. They knew there was nowhere for me to go. I heard them talking and laughing until the engine started and drowned them out.         

            It has been 14 months since that night.
            I never saw my watch after that night. It was a $2,000 Tag Heuer that had been a birthday gift from DJB back in 2006.
            I still have the IPOD player. It still works and it still shows the damage from that night.
            I  no longer have those ripped Abercrombie jeans.
            I do still have a scar on my knee from that night.
            2 days later, a doctor would see the large scab covering my knee and ask me what happened. I told him,"Well, I thought I was fighting for my life on a boat, but now I have no idea".

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