Sam had disappeared. He said something about having to get away from
everything for a while and Victoria told me he’s not likely to come
back for at least a couple of weeks. I guess Sam was the one who’s “my
friend” in that group, because I started declining suggestions to go
out when he wasn’t here. It didn’t feel the same without Sam, for some
Anyway, one day Tom came up to me and asked me whether I wanted to
watch a movie at Hoyts in the city. I was a bit puzzled coz I don’t
remember him liking English movies. I didn’t ask him about that
though…and it didn’t matter anyway, coz he told me when we took the
bus to the city. He confided that he wanted to improve his English
proficiency to get Kiwi chicks and asked if I could help him out. Well,
I don’t mind, though it proved to be very challenging, since his literacy level was in the lower percentile, compared to his ESL class.
He had thought that watching movies would be a good start – by
exposing himself to conversations by people who speaks English as their
first language. I also started talking to him in English, and this took
a sizable chuck of conversation time since I basically had to translate
things twice. I remember watching George of the Jungle and Star Wars: A
New Hope (they re-released the re-mastered and digitally enhanced film)
back to back and by the time we walked back, it was close to midnight.
I was still tutoring him on English as we walked down the street
when he suddenly asked, “Are they talking about us?”. I looked around
and didn’t see anyone except this group of people who just came out of
a bar and puzzled, I turned back to him and asked who he was going on
about. He gestured at the group. I didn’t pay attention to them before,
so I started listening. I did not hear anything unusual, apart from the
general inebriated chattering of friends after a drinking session.
“I’m sure they’re laughing at us”, he said insistently. I listened
but I still don’t hear anything about us. I stopped and said, “Look if
you’re so bothered about them, we’ll just let them pass and then you
stop being so paranoid”. This apparently wasn’t a very wise thing to do
because the other group was just behind us, and, having their reflexes
impaired by alcohol, bumped into me. The guy that did so nearly spilled
his bottle of beer and promptly stepped back to avoid spillage.
“Hey, watch it”, he muttered indignantly.
“Sorry”, I said. I looked at their group – there were three guys and
two girls, locals. Tom told me in Mandarin, “Why are you saying sorry?
Let’s beat up those people, they were laughing at us, I’m sure. Let’s
beat them up.”
I told him not to be stupid, we can’t win this fight and they didn’t do anything wrong anyway, and I did
make the guy bump into me. He wouldn’t give it a rest though, he kept
on wanting to fight them. I later learnt that Tom is very sensitive
about laughter. I noticed that the guy standing the furthest away from
me looked like he wanted some trouble too. Sure enough, infused with
Dutch courage and suffering from Ethanol Ears, he loudly asked me
whether I did it on purpose.
Now, this person had attempted to elevate the situation. I didn’t
want to get into a fight just to entertain this guy. Oh, and we were
outnumbered, unarmed and overpowered (gauging from the size of the
three men). ;) I didn’t want feel like I was intimidated either, so I
ignored the guy trying to instigate matters and looked at the guy who
just bumped into me. I figured it was just between the two of us. “Nah,
mate. It was an accident, didn’t hear you coming from behind”, I told
him and smiled casually.
He shrugged and said “No worries”, and he led his girlfriend down
the street again. His friends followed his lead, and it seemed that
that was that…until the Dutch guy, whom I presume is one of his
friends, turned back as he was walking away and sneered:
“Chink, go back home!”
I said it before I could think of the consequences. Things started
going at fast forward now, I saw myself walking up to them and shouting
“What did you say, you motherfucker?” and all of sudden Tom was asking
me “He called us chinks, didn’t he? I know what that means! Let’s get
him!” and I was picking up a bottle from the side of the road and
shouting “Hey, white thrash, where’s the fire? Can’t wait to get back
to fuck your sheep eh?” and then two of the guys stopped while the
third was dragged off by his girlfriend, saying “Let’s just go, honey”.
The world started to return to normal time and I found myself
standing in front of two visibly pissed off guys who were much taller
than me, not to mention much larger than me. The remaining girl looked
like she won’t mind having a go at me as well…and I realized that
she’s not the only one. I saw the bouncer at a club nearby looking at
me in an unfriendly manner and several passer-bys glared at me. Oops…
I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I was already regretting
my impulsive manifestation of anger. I looked over at Tom. “I think
it’s time we made a quick exit,” I told him in Chinese. He nodded and
we bolted back down the street. Neither of us made it. I saw one of the
guys sprinting after Tom and I was wondering why he’s overtaking me,
when suddenly, I felt my shirt grabbed from behind. The adrenaline was
pumping through me, and I turned back and punched blindly at the guy
behind me. I ran across the road, taking a sudden right, and felt him
behind me, and surprisingly, I could not outrun him.
He caught up in seconds and gave me a right blow to the head. My
punch did not affect him, but I couldn’t say the same for his, coz I
was sprawled against the railing beside the sidewalk. I was dizzy and
tried to hit him again, but only got air. I have to admit that I wasn’t
fighting back because I was brave. Au contraire. I was fighting because
I was scared shitless. It was the only thing I could think of doing. I
tried to hit him again and failed. He punched me in the stomach and I
felt like oxygen was straight vacuumed out of me.
I won’t romanticize things…that made me gasp for air on the floor.
I couldn’t think about anything except that I needed to catch my breath
and the guy kicked me in the ribs while I was down. That hurt something
awful too, but everything was rather blurry now anyway. I remember
seeing the bouncer standing there impassively. I remember seeing the
people in the cafe beside that pointedly ignoring the scene outside. I
can’t say I blame that, I did insult them by proxy. ;)
The guy was about to kick me again when his girlfriend said “No!”,
and pulled him away. I caught my breath and tried to get up with the
help of the railings…and I somehow got myself standing again, and I
thought…”Hey…I’m still alright”. I looked at the guy arguing with
his girlfriend and pretended to be in great pain (well, I did feel
pain, but it wasn’t that bad) and stumbled to the general direction
back while doubled over. I didn’t know what possessed me, but I knew
what I was going to do before I did it.
I saw the guy look at me from the corner of my eye, but I still
pretended to be in a great deal of pain and he turned towards his gf
again and I just took a step over and fucking drove my knee up as hard
as I could to his crotch. I think we both screamed at the same time. I
overdid it and apparently hurt one of the muscle groups in my thigh.
His scream was gratifyingly effeminate though.
My apologies, there are no rules in a street brawl and everything is
fair game. I think I pilfered some of his family jewels, because now
he’s completely in the fetal position while his girlfriend was
screaming for help. I felt powerful though, hell, I felt wonderful. I
kicked him repeatedly in his head, each time leveraging the barrier to
go for brute force, making his cranial structure forcibly come into
contact with the metal barrier. I FELT GOOD! Until my sneaker fell off.
Yes, it was that embarrassing. Shit like this only happens in real
life, eh…I haven’t seen people in the unfortunate position of being
de-shoed while assaulting someone in the movies. I have this habit of
not tying it tightly. I bent down to get my sneaker (which was stupid,
but I wasn’t street smart then, just lucky) and was sent flying from a
kick from behind. It was more startling than painful, I swirled around
and saw that it was the girlfriend who did that.
She has my highest respect. I actually nodded at her for having the
balls (or whatever the female equivalent is) to do that to help her
boyfriend. She bent down and I looked to the side and saw that the guy
is looking like he’s going to recover soon and decided to leave. I was
hit in the face by a stone. It split my bottom lip and I remember
thinking that it was going to hit me straight in the face instead of
deviating downwards. I’ll give her something, she really has balls.
There was a crowd of people surrounding us all of a sudden, and the
bouncer who came over said he had called the police and told me to fuck
off and never come back while he’s at the club or he’ll kick the shit
out of me. I thought that was a funny thing to say, I wasn’t even in
the club he was manning. I saw the girl crying and I saw that I had
dripped some blood on the floor from my lip. I did not expect to see
the guy’s face all blood stained and bruised. I was shocked and
fearful. I ran away before the police could arrive.
I was halfway down the street when I remembered Tom. Shit! What
happened to him? Did he get away? I didn’t know where to go, I can’t go
back since the sirens were coming into hearing range, so I went to the
bus stop. He wasn’t there. I went up to 9 ball and shocked the
receptionist by my appearance. He wasn’t there too. I walked back to
the bus stop and decided to just go back to the scene when I saw him
walking slowly from the other road.
I caught my own reflection in the mirror and saw that while it’s
obvious I’ve been in a violent confrontation, it wasn’t that bad at
all. Just a split lip and a couple of bruises. I only found out that
the really bad bruises were on my chest from where he kicked me in the
ribs the next day. Tom looked like he had been given the once over
pretty bad. I felt sorry for him, even though he was the one who wanted
the fight, coz I was the one who made it happen.
I asked him if he was alright. He somehow blamed me for what
happened to him, coz he glared at me and shouted, “Do I look alright?”.
I later learnt that Tom did not take to losing well and harbors
resentment towards anyone who gets out of the same situation better
than he does. I was just lucky tonight, it could have been the other
way round. It turns out that he had wanted to be like me, to be able to
be friends with the Caucasian population in school, and that was why he
was so keen on getting me to teach him things.
“Well, let’s just go back.”, I said. He did not reply, so I just
took the lead and hopped into a cab and got the driver to get to his
destination. He walked out without a word too. I went on to my place
and turned in for the night.
The first period of the next day was Calculus, which I had with
Richard. Richard, whom I usually didn’t have much to talk about with,
must have heard of the incident through the grapevine. I was surprised
when he motioned me over to sit beside him said told me this:
“When you go into a fight, always be prepared that you’ll be
defeated. Losing can mean anything from minor cuts and bruises, losing
a leg, turning blind, or even just plain dead. Always be prepared for
the worst and resign yourself to that fact you might be seriously
injured or even dead. Granted, most altercations won’t end up like
this…but some will.”
“Why aren’t you afraid every time you go out on gang fights?”, I asked, wanting to know his secret.
He laughed softly and said, “Who says I’m not afraid? Everyone is
afraid of death or being mutilated. I just don’t think about the
possibilities – there are too many, and I just resign myself to fate.
You can’t go to fight with a defeatist attitude…of course, we all aim
to stay alive, but to do that, you have to try your very best to defeat
“What about the police? Are you not worried about them?”, I asked, thinking about the other side.
“The police? We’ve already been arrested so many times the police
officers for Asian gangs know us by name. I’ve never been charged
though, since no one has ever testified. Asian pride, we solve our
affairs internally. Even the gangs who were wronged, they don’t talk to
the police, no one does over here. It’s an honor code, everything is
settled internally. I noticed that you always seem to be worried about
police more than anything though, what are you afraid of?”
“I’m the type of person who would choose death over a long jail
sentence. I’m not cut out to be cooped up. It would drive me insane.”
“I think everyone is, to a certain extent. I just don’t think about
it. The decision to fight has been made, if you think it’s worth
fighting for, you have enough on your mind already. You’ll need to
think about whether you’re prepared to kill the opponent and risk going
to jail. You’ll need to think about whether your opponent is prepared
to kill you and risk going to jail. The police are the least of your
worries. You may not even get out of the fight alive. You may get out
alive and escape. You may win. There’s so many possibilities that you
really shouldn’t worry about jail before fighting. You might not even
survive and all that worrying would be for nothing, since it’s your
opponent’s problem now. Your priority is to keep yourself alive.”
“Oh”, he added with a grin. “I heard about you and Tom…he’s been telling the story to everyone who would listen all morning.”
I was surprised…he usually doesn’t come in that early, and I had thought he would sleep in after the night.
“Anyway”, Richard went on, “I imagine he told you about the supposed great fight he had with Aaron last year, right?”
“Yeah, I heard it was just the two of them against 7 rugby players, and they walked out”, I replied.
“Pffftttt…that’ll be the day. I was there; we had come here to
hand in our application forms. There was just one attacker. Tom was too
scared to hit him. The other people were pulling the attacker off Tom,
who was getting the shit beaten out of him. Aaron broke a chair over
the guy’s head and got restrained too. Then, a teacher came in and put
a stop to everything. It’s interesting how these Taiwanese likes to
talk cock about their “bad boy” stories. I remember Tom telling some
people when we were first in about how he fought off 20 motorcyclists
who came after him with baseball bats. I laughed in his face. There’s
embellishment and there’s straight out bullshit and I can recognize the
latter when I see it.”
“I noticed that you never got along with him,” I mentioned.
“I don’t like people like him. Aaron seems alright, but Tom is all
talk, no action. His retellings get embellished every time he recites
it, haven’t you noticed? The last time I heard him telling the rugby
story, he didn’t even mention Aaron, he told some younger guys he was
the only one fighting while Aaron was just standing there. He just
wants to convince other people that he’s tough, when he’s really not.
There are some people you can trust, there are some that you can’t. Tom
belongs to the latter. I don’t exactly get along with Boon, but I’ll
have to admit, he’s part of the few you can trust. You’ll have been
better off with him than Tom last night.” he drawled.
“What would you have done?”, I asked.
“I would have done the smart thing and avoid a confrontation.” he
said with a grin. “I’ll also follow them back to their house to get
their address and then get the rest of the gang and ambush them.
There’s no shame in postponing a conflict until the odds are in your
favor. Going straight in when you’re unarmed and fighting people twice
your size is stupid. There’s always a smart way and a stupid way.
There’s no room for heroes when you come out and play, heroes all wind
up dead. Us Chinese, we use our brains and strategy. Make sure you the
one holding the Royal Flush.”
“Oh, and come to think of it, I probably won’t even do anything if
that happened to me. If I fought over every minor transgression, I
won’t even have time to take a shit.” Richard said, and smirked.
“You did pretty well though. I didn’t know you had it in you.” he
continued. “I never thought you had it in you to kick him so viciously.
We were surprised. You were pretty sneaky with that crotch retaliation.
“Tom told you? He didn’t even tell me he saw me! Oh well, it doesn’t
matter anyway, since the fight was basically already over, I was just
venting my anger”, I said and shrugged.
“Actually, it wasn’t Tom who saw you. I was at Players with Ah Bi
and the rest of our friends”, he said. “We heard shouting and looked
down and enjoyed the show.”
“What?!?”, I exclaimed. “Why didn’t you help?”
Richard looked at me strangely and said, “Why should we help?”
I didn’t know the answer too. It didn’t seem right to say “Just
because we’re all Asians”. That sounded stupidly idealistic and naive.
He seemed to read my mind though.
“The Asian community is not as united as you think,” he said in
matter of fact tone. “You seem to be a little out of touch with the
real world, no offence. Like I said, I won’t even have time to take a
dump if I helped out every one of my acquaintances when they had
trouble. However, if you were one of us, that would be different.”
I could see the logic behind that. I sat there thinking about this before I noticed Richard was looking at me.
“Oh, I was just thinking about how I haven’t been exposed to a lot of different people before coming here,” I said.
It seemed like he was waiting for an answer or something. I didn’t realize that he meant the last sentence to be a question.
“Listen”, he said. “We saw you yesterday night and we think you held
your own down there. There are a couple of people from Sibu in Asian
Freeway too, you probably know them. I hear you do drugs as well, there
would be more than a few people you’ll get along with in there.”
I was thinking about what he just proposed. I know about them from
what Ah Boon told me, and they seem to have a reputation for violence.
Is that why they wanted me? Just coz they thought I had the stomach to
dish out pain and receive pain? Anyone could do that under urgent
circumstances. I thought about whether I would enjoy hanging out with
“Hey, didn’t all three of you come from Hornby last time? I mean
you, Ah Bi and Ah Boon? I wasn’t under the impression that Ah Boon is
in on this”, I thought aloud.
“No, he isn’t”, said Richard. “He didn’t want to, for some reason”.
I suddenly remembered what Ah Boon had said in a passing remark. He
said that being with this group is more hassle than it’s worth. There’s
always something every day. I was tempted by the offer, since it would
offer me protection in the future from such incidents. The only thing
that stopped me was the fact that I couldn’t see myself hanging out
with them. I didn’t feel like I would fit in.
“You know, I don’t think I’ll be comfortable joining a gang…though
I’m glad you asked. It is very tempting, but I don’t think I’m suited
to it”, I told him.
Richard grinned, saying “I figured you’ll say that. You’re always
going on about the police, worrying about them. Anyway, I’ll tell the
others that you’re not interested. I’m glad you didn’t waste my time
like some people do. I think you’re a little too naive and trusting for
the life anyway.”
“Oh, and about trust, you’ll be interested in something else we saw
last night,” Richard said, not waiting for an answer. “We could see the
both of you actually. You and Tom were not far from each other. The
other guy grabbed him just a little down the street, near the
dumpsters. The one attacking you failed to grab you and you managed to
get across the street. There was a car that nearly hit you, but I doubt
you know it or even remember it. The guy would have caught up with you
faster if it weren’t for that. Anyway, you’ll be interested to know
what went on near the dumpsters. Tom was just cowering there while the
guy kicked him. He repeatedly said “No, no, it’s him, him” while
pointing at your direction. Ah Bi hates people like these and he threw
a bottle at Tom. Unfortunately, it landed beside him and the attacker
looked up and saw all of us and though we were going to intervene, so
he ran away.”
“Now here’s the funny thing”, he continued, “Tom didn’t even know
when the attacker left coz he was covering himself. I guessed he just
assumed he was done. Never even wondered why there was a smashed bottle
beside him. Probably thought the attacker used it on him. Heh. He
didn’t use the straight way back though, he walked the long way. You
were actually just about to kick your attacker in the balls when that
happened. The bottle actually caused three things to happen – you
wouldn’t have had the chance to do that if it weren’t for us
accidentally scaring the other guy who ran into a sidewalk. Well,
actually you would still have the chance to do that, but you’ll be in
worse shape today coz Tom’s attacker would have passed you by after
he’s done and kicked your ass while you lost your shoe. Hahaha! You had
the whole snooker place laughing.”
“Anyway, him kicking your ass might have been a good thing, because
we saw the police talking to the guy you beat up after that. Now
instead of having them charged for assault, you’re probably going to be
the one. I would not waste a second worrying about that though, coz
they don’t know you, they don’t know your name, they don’t know shit.
It was a random street fighting between two groups of people who didn’t
know each other. However, you do have something unrelated which is
going to pose a problem to you”, he commented.
“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Well, your friend Tom is not going to let this opportunity
go…he’s going to tell anyone who listens about how he held down five
armed Kiwis with just his lighter while you ran away. I know how his
mind works. I’ve seen enough people like him. He’s feeling angry about
the fact that he lost and he’s embarrassed from having to turn up in
school looking like that after his alleged super fighting skills, which
we now know is non-existent. I wasn’t kidding when I said you’re naive
and trusting. It’s so obvious that everyone who talks to you will know
your nature. Tom knows that you won’t refute him coz you have this
thing about “friends”, so he’ll twist the story to make himself look
good and come out smelling like roses, and that, my friend, will make
you smell like shit. He’s going to ruin your reputation if you don’t do
something about him. In fact, in the last reenactment story I heard,
the figure went up to 7 Kiwis and a large Maori, and he said you
immediately turned tail and ran. Oh, and he made this “zzzpppptttt”
sound when he described you running away, and mentioned something about
seeing you beside him one second and gone the next”, he drawled
“I guess that’s his way of overcompensating…but what he doesn’t
know is that we saw everything and Ah Bi is coming during lunch. We’re
going to give him a surprise”, Richard said, looking like he was
looking forward to it.
I was very pissed off at this, so I didn’t really notice what he’s
implying will happen during lunch. I had thought of Tom as a friend and
I was disappointed in the way he could just do something like this
without feeling any conscience. It’s one thing to claim all credit, I
wouldn’t even have minded, and I’ll even play along, since it matters
so much to him. I just didn’t understand why he went one step further
from lying to slander. I was later told that he’s always been this way,
it’s his nature to think of his friends as competitors. I think it was
a self-esteem and identity issue. I didn’t know what I felt anymore and
when I heard the recess bell go off, I saw that Richard had already
I walked down to the canteen. I saw Richard was there with Ah Bi,
telling everyone what really happened. He was totally enjoying himself,
describing every emotion and word that Tom had said in detail. I felt
sorry for Tom, they were leaving him with no options, no way to save
face. He stood there almost crying from shame when he suddenly shouted,
“If you’re all so brave, why didn’t you come out to help?”
Richard only laughed harder and said that it was more like they
didn’t give a shit about his welfare, even going into details about how
they were so entertained, they didn’t go back to resuming their snooker
game. Ah Bi also offered him more information than he wanted about the
intended target of the bottle. I guess teenage guys can be just as
emotionally cruel as girls. Tom finally couldn’t take it anymore and
just ran off.
They watched him go with much amusement…and proceeded to relate
how my shoe fell off while kicking the attacker’s head and the
retaliation where the girlfriend kicked my ass (literally) and would
have rearranged my face, if it wasn’t for her poor aim. It felt like
they were obliged to take some digs at me to appear impartial, which of
course they are, except that they didn’t like Tom. I had to contend
with shoe jokes for weeks, though I didn’t mind the jokes about having
my ass kicked by his girlfriend. I think that was a really great thing
that she did for her boyfriend.
I still don’t know why he said all that though. I had wondered if it
had more to do with wanting to help me and clear my reputation by
speaking out or just coz he didn’t like Tom and he had the perfect
chance to embarrass him in front of this audience. I very much doubt it
was the former.
Richard and Ah Bi walked past me when they’ve had their fun,
obviously having enjoyed it very much. Richard walked close to me and
said in a low tone, “I don’t know what goes on in the strange mind you
have, but don’t think that we did this coz we think of you as a
friend”. He turned towards me and grinned. “We’re not that altruistic.
I have some advice for you though. You trust people too much. That’s
wrong. You can’t trust people, period. Oh, and this hardly needs
saying, but you should really take a good look at some of your friends
before you treat them as such.”
That was the last time I saw them in school. I heard Ah Bi suddenly
stood up in the middle of class and announced that he is HIV positive
and he’ll not be attending classes anymore. Richard did the same thing.
That, to the best of my knowledge, is still standing as the most
audacious and outstanding excuse to get out of school. They were not
HIV positive, but I heard they announced it so loudly in class that it
shocked everyone and they just left while everyone was digesting this
and stopped going to school to become full time gang members.
End of Black Kingdom: Chapter 5 – “Chink, go back home!”
[ List of Characters ]
Next: Black Kingdom: Chapter 6 – The Lunch Gauntlet Run [sixthseal.com].