We were running down the road, partly in panic and fear, partly in some idiotic joy. The two of us did a lot of running in those days, mostly out of bars and through the streets. They didn’t like our type and I had a smart mouth, smart enough to attract trouble: maybe not so smart, then. But I was a lover, not a fighter, which in practice meant I was going to get laid with a broken nose, and not for the first time.
Down the hill and into the park, arms and legs spidering everywhere, coat billowing behind me, checking over our shoulders that they weren’t following us any more, stumbling on uneven ground, past the swings and over the brow of the hill where we then hid, stretched out flat as snipers and looking back to where we’d come from.
We were safe, at least for the moment.
Blood was still running from my nose. It hurt badly, but it would pass. I sat up and tried to stem the bleeding. “You should just shut up sometimes” and laughter was all the sympathy I got. I noticed brilliant red spots peppered over my brand new white shirt. Damn.
They had been big guys, big bruisers straight out of the pages of stereotype. Beer guts hanging over straining belts, tabs hanging from yellowed fingers, pints of bitter and a bitter attitude to match. No-one could pass them without their commentary; lecherous, lewd, libidinous to some, damning, disrespectful and downright disgusting to others. I was a good bit taller than them all which, as we passed, somehow attracted foul comment. I ignored it, as it was relatively mild and only directed at me. I’d heard far worse from my own father.
We joined our friends for a drink and Mark ordered a gin and tonic, which was where the trouble started. Real men don’t drink gin. There were six of us and three bruisers, which they obviously saw as a challenge. We ignored them, which was the next challenge. So far, so usual. Some jostling, some ignorant comments.
It was summer, and I was at the height of happiness, that blissful time following finals when the study is over, the reward achieved and you’re just waiting around for the rest of your life to start. No deadlines, no responsibilities, no rules. I had a great job lined up to start at the end of the summer. My relationship was loving and stable. I had a future. I ruled the world. I didn’t need this aggravation.
I’m going to live forever, I’m going to learn how to fly – high.
We sang along, in mild mockery of the sentiment and the TV programme which we all openly despised but secretly watched. The one the teenage girls had adopted, along with the songs and the fashion sense and the impossibly beautiful and talented teens.
I can catch the moon in my hands. Don’t you know who I am?
A bridge too far. Real men don’t sing along in bars. More jostling, more comments. Threats, veiled, then unveiled. The mood moved from restraint to aggression, with an overt threat, not towards me, but to him. My smart mouth and then the blinding pain across my eyes, which still didn’t stop my mouth from going into overdrive. And then we were running.
Remember my name.
I wouldn’t be running much longer.