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Party Battle Maiden
What happens when a party gets disrupted by violence, and the violence gets disrupted by something even weirder
This is the true story of the only time I’ve been in a fight.
The night in question also happens to have set into motion a convoluted chain of events with seismic ramifications on the trajectory of my life, culminating in an armed police raid on my house. But all that will have to wait for another day.
For now, we’ll go back to a time when I lived in a house with roommates and a yard. A house that had garnered a well-earned reputation for hosting fantastic parties. A house on the eve of New Year’s Day.
The last time we threw a New Year’s Eve party, the line of people waiting to get in thirty minutes to midnight extended into the street. The one time we counted attendance was for a fundraising event, and we clocked three hundred people over the course of the evening. Each time we hosted a party, we’d have to initiate a round of multilateral talks to dole out the limited time slots among the half-dozen or so professional DJs volunteering to play our living room.
The hype was well established. And my good friend Jacob trekked in from out of town to see this for himself.
I felt a kinship with Jacob. We trenched similar pathways. He was an unashamed computer nerd who spent his teenage years playing Counter-Strike and installing multiple Linux distros for fun, only to thereafter discover the twin ambrosias of lifting weights and having sex with women. With him, I had a friend I could talk to about the optimal strategy for both escalating touching on a first date, and the ideal mercenary roster for Jagged Alliance 2.
Jacob was bald, cleanly shaven, and muscle-bound enough to distract from his hideously patterned button-up shirts. He was just socially unaware enough that it accidentally read as confidence. He knew nobody at the party, but I promised him intelligence briefings on anyone there he fancied.
A couple hundred people filtered through our doors over the course of the night. We all congregated at midnight, shouted the countdown, then screamed in ecstasy when the klaxon synths that signified the start of M83’s Midnight City played over us. We all kissed as many people as possible, or at least tried to, fully capitalizing on the yearly window of time when such frantic behavior is deemed socially acceptable (or is at least tolerated). We fueled all this with the two brands of champagne that mattered in those days: Kirkland Signature and Miller High Life.
As the hospitable emir of the party palace, I was riding the social highs of playing host, and flaunted a Rick James wig to emphasize my status. Hours past midnight, I went out to the front yard to take a break from the sauna of the living room dance floor. Jacob was kissing this woman wearing a tiara, and he had his hand around the back of her neck. I glimpsed discomfort in her eyes, but also, her fiancé was standing right behind Jacob, obliviously engaged in a separate interaction. Fulfilling my promise to provide intelligence briefings, I told Jacob 1) Tiara looks uncomfortable with your advances, and 2) Her fiancé is right there dude.
Jacob only heard the F-word. His eyes widened, and he apologized profusely to me. He continued his apology world tour around the yard, and told Fiancé that he had no idea he was with Tiara. The only response from Fiancé was “Yeahhh, she gets drunk and slutty sometimes.” Jacob blinked. Weird, but this was not the moment to dissect their relationship dynamic. Jacob then found Tiara again and apologized to her as well, and asked if she accepted his apology. She said yes. Cool, problem solved! Jacob had fucked up, but here he was graciously de-escalating the affair in a civil manner. Diplomatic crisis averted. Emir status untarnished. I had just indirectly brokered a peace deal and we could continue partying.
It didn’t last. Suddenly, a woman emerged from the background and started excoriating Jacob about “choking women.” Wait, choking? Somehow “hand on neck while kissing” got telephone-gamed into something far darker. While Jacob and I were distracted by this new development, a dude apparently associated with Tiara’s crew stood behind Jacob wearing a blazer and a seething expression.
With no warning, Blazer started punching Jacob’s face from behind.
It took a moment for me to go from merry revelry to holy fuck there is a fight going on. And then yet another moment to get fucking pissed that someone was pulling this shit right in my own front yard. So of course, I instinctively punched Blazer right in the face.
This is pure coincidence, but just a few months prior I had taken boxing classes. I wish I could brag about how well the classes helped me hone my skills, but in reality, I landed only that one punch before my Rick James wig got jostled forward and covered my eyes.
I had no idea what was happening, and by the time I threw the wig off, Jacob and Blazer had tumbled into a messy and incoherent ground grapple. Several friends of mine surrounded both of them and tried to get them separated as they squirmed on the ground, but Blazer kept hold.
(Brief aside, but one of my party co-hosts later told me he had walked outside at this time, saw the people grappling on the ground, thought “Aww, they’re hugging!” and obliviously went back inside.)
Jacob had enough Brazilian jiu-jitsu training to do some serious damage, so I yelled at him not to try anything. Jacob heard me, and I saw him relax the suspiciously technical grip he had on Blazer’s hand. I yelled at Blazer, “Let go!” He didn’t. In a bid to force compliance, I punched Blazer in the back of the skull (Note: This is a very bad idea for the one doing the punching) and repeated myself. It worked. Now disentangled, Blazer was immediately tossed out of the yard. He accused us of not caring about violence against women and then, while standing in his place of exile on the sidewalk, took out his cell phone, called the cops… and reported our party — the one he had been happily participating in — as a noise complaint from a concerned citizen. What a bitch.
The physical altercation, no longer crumpled and concentrated into a tight-knit ball, unraveled to occupy the entire front yard. Faction lines were drawn among the involved parties and their allies, and hostilities continued with all the coherence and elegance you’d expect of a 3 a.m. melee. In the confusion of it all, one of Blazer’s friends even tried to get me kicked out of my own party. The fog of war is real.
I was still revved up on adrenaline, still very much offended by what happened. But within the chaotic scene in the yard, one person stood out.
Irene was small, had art student bangs, and a facial expression that defaulted to a sly smirk. I knew her and thought she was cute, but our only prior interactions were running into each other at local punk shows and warehouse parties.
She walked toward me in an even and uninterrupted stride, somehow unaffected by the fracas surrounding her. In the middle of the mayhem, while I was still reeling from my own anger, she laid a hand on my arm and with a concerned look and soothing candor said, “It’s okay. It’s ooookayyyy.” The stark contrast between her calming demeanor and everything else definitely captured my attention.
My shoulders slung. I relaxed a bit. She kept eye contact. A beat. “Do you want to go to your room and make out?” she continued. Her hand was still on my arm, and her voice maintained the same soothing analgesic tenor — a patient cadence in no rush to get to its destination.
The initial hormonal surge that animated my body was a train engine that had hurled itself forward with no due regard for safety regulations. And yet here she was, calmly standing athwart those same tracks, oblivious and unconcerned.
What? Yes, of course I wanted to make out. But also, what the fuck? Her suggestion had been levied in the same manner you’d ask someone crying if they wanted a hug after a rough day. Running the parallel tracks of bewilderment, anger, arousal, and whatever the fuck else, my mind could not conjure up a coherent reason to say no. A very confused “Yes?” was all I could muster.
Irene and I left the chaos behind and slunk through the house and into my room. We immediately started making out. As abrupt as it was, shifting gears from punching to kissing felt oddly thematically consistent, in a primal steppe warrior kind of way. Irene’s serene demeanor scared the fuck out of me. She was somehow completely impervious to and unconcerned with any dumb bullshit happening around her, and I couldn’t help but be drawn in to her director’s vision.
The tidal wave of anger crashed and now the floodwaters receded back into the open void. I finally became aware of the serious pain in my right wrist and made a note not to do something as idiotic as punch someone in the skull.
I was still nominally responsible for the party and still had shit to take care of. I pulled back, glanced at my door, and told her I needed to go check in on everyone.
Her voice notched up an octave in sharpness. “Yassine! I don’t want you to get into trouble!” Yet she wrapped her alarm in dulcet padding — an acoustic velvet fist. Who the fuck was she? There was something deeply unsettling about her unyielding role as an oasis of tranquility, given the surrounding wasteland. I was so scared of her. I told her my intent was solely to make sure that everyone was okay. She again pleaded-slash-scolded me and said, “Yassine! Promise me you won’t get into another fight!” She terrified me, and I had no intention of disappointing her.
I stepped out of my room into an empty house. The cops had already shown up and cleared the attendees. As disappointing as it was for our streak of successful parties with no noise complaints to end, the dispersal came late enough in the night not to matter much. Jacob remained, as he planned to crash on my couch.
We were almost there, but the evening’s tumult was not over. The curtains may have drawn closed, the atrium lobby may have been cleared, but one person was hell-bent on an encore: Fiancé. He had walked off the stage already, but decided to come back and was now pounding at my front door, demanding to be let back in the venue so that he could start fight number two with Jacob.
Fiancé’s motivations were humiliatingly transparent. He did nothing while a stranger kissed/choked/strangled (depending on which of Rashōmon’s acts you identify with the most) his soon-to-be-wife a mere two feet away. I’m guessing he also regretted telling that same stranger about her “drunk and slutty” habits. And, safe to say, it didn’t help that it was another dude, Blazer, who flared up violently to defend his woman’s honor. But only now did Fiancé show up, after the credits have rolled. Only now did he appear, demanding that all the actors take their places again, insisting on script revisions this time. Let’s light up the rigging again just so that he can assure everyone who cares to listen to him in the future that he, too, felt the shine of the spotlight that night.
Feel emasculated all you want, but do it on your own time. Jacob was my guest, and I was affording him sanctuary and refuge. Fiancé was utterly deluded to think I would somehow renege and allow him the space to pathetically pantomime his redemption fantasy. Go the fuck home, dude.
Jacob and I went to get breakfast the next morning, relatively early. My wig was still on the ground, caked in dirt and dead leaves. We meandered through parks and tree-lined streets, and jointly processed what transpired. This New Year’s Day just happened to be a Sunday, and Jacob and I sat on a low wall when two middle-aged black men passed us by, dressed sharply in what looked like their best Sunday suits. They walked past, briefly talked to each other, then turned around back toward us.
One spoke with the clearly enunciated and stilted formal diction I had heard many times in certain religious settings: “Gentlemen, it is rare to see young men such as yourselves out and about so early on this day. You must have gone against the grain and chosen to have a quiet night.”
We knew they were geared up to proselytize. All Jacob and I could do to respond was look at each other and then laugh at how completely off-target they were.
Image: UNITED STATES - AUGUST 06: Rick James; March 1984 (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)