Black Kingdom: Chapter 6 – The Lunch Gauntlet Run

Note: The series is meant to be read sequentially. It won’t make much sense otherwise. The first chapter is here [sixthseal.com].

It had become a routine of sneaking out for lunch at Desmond’s house
and maybe a beer (he always had some in the fridge) before coming
back…or not coming back at all. The latter was more common since I
did not have a lunch pass. You need one to get out of school grounds
and there’s a teacher on duty to check your student ID for the
compulsory fork and knife cross that grants you free passage from the
gatekeeper.

the lunch gauntlet run

I had grown closer to Ah Boon and hung out with him a lot, as well
as Desmond and some of the other less academically oriented Malaysian
group. Tom was avoiding us and stuck with Aaron (his old friend) for
company. Chen is Chen, he just goes with whoever he feels like. Aaron
remained neutral and got along fine with us, but the both of them can
cause for some awkward moments. We had a couple of cigarette breaks at
Aaron’s house (which was near the school too), but there was a tangible
air of tension when Tom was around.

A lot of the people in the unofficial Malaysian international student’s society, L’association de Academia Apathetica
(either by choice or by nature) was in some way or other connected in
some degree to Ah Bi, and thus had some measure of aversion to Tom due
to the preceding events. Thus, by circumstance, it became a regular
thing for us Malaysians (mostly from Sarawak) to meet at the seats near
the canteen to go out for lunch.

This made getting out a daily gauntlet run for me, since I was the
only one without that sacred fork and knife stamp on my Student ID. The
“pack close to Kevin and flash the ID’s so he won’t get noticed” modus
operandi, the brainchild of Desmond, worked for a while before one of
the teachers on guard noticed that there was always someone shielding a
clear view of my ID and caught on to the ruse.

I guess you can only use the “Distract and Confuse” evasion method
that many times before someone catches on. The first time that
happened, I just told the teacher on duty nicely that my house was just
a minute’s walk away and I forgot something for class, which wasn’t
always an outright lie, at least not the first bit. I did live just a minute’s walk away from the school. The other part, it’s called being economical with the truth. ;)

That worked for a while due to the rotating shifts of the teachers,
I would just give the same excuse everyday…until the guard became
permanent. I tried variants of the excuse, but it clearly wasn’t a well
thought out strategy of deception, coz Desmond parks his car in front
of the gates and I got into it along with the others….with the
teacher, who still has very capable eyesight despite his age, looking on, as I was unfortunate enough to find out the next school day.

“You’re not getting into that car”, he said when we walked to the
school gate, looking directly at me. “Thou shalt not steppeth out! Let
there be no student, man or women, pass these gates freely, barring the
possession of the Royal Seal of the Lunch Pass, as is ordained by the
sacred School Rules, and as will always be.”

It was a standoff. Imagine a group of unmoving ten teenagers at the
school gates facing off a solitary Guardian of the Gates of Noon. We
started conversing in Hokkien about methods to thwart this inconvenient
twist of events. “You guys aren’t even supposed to leave in a group.
The lunch pass means exactly that – an allowance for students to go
home for lunch. Home as in your own home, not some friend’s place”, he
butted in, pious in his role of upholding Riccarton High School Rule
Number 23, Section 4.

“Look, I’m just getting a ride to my place, to save me the walk,” I
reasoned, looking at him with what I hoped was a righteously offended
expression.

“No can do. You don’t have a lunch pass, remember?” he shot back with finality.

“Well, I’m going to apply for one as soon as I get back,” I retorted.

“Lunch passes are given out before the start of each school term.
You’ll have to wait till the next semester for the application form,”
he answered, with what I swear was glee in his voice.

“So what now?” Desmond asked me in Hokkien. We had plans to skip the
second half of classes and go to the city. “I’m thinking,” I replied,
and surveyed the school grounds behind me. There were two girls walking
down, I know them from my Biology class – they were from Kuching, good
girls, and card carrying members of SAUSAGES (Society of the Asian
Universal Stereotype of Academically Gifted and Extra-studious
Students).

I had the feeling that one of them has a thing for me. She was
always trying to talk to me in Biology class and…well, make
accidental physical contact too many times to account with the
probability statistics. The abovementioned accidental physical contact
also lasted longer than the average, often with me having to break the
said contact. Plus, her friend told me. :p There you go. I didn’t have
any feelings for her, but that’s not the point of this chapter. I
looked at them…

…and I looked back at the gate and the wretched being standing watch beside it.

“Desmond,” I started excitedly, still speaking in Hokkien to
leverage on the language barrier advantage, feeling the familiar
adrenaline rush that comes with doing something impulsive. “Go start
your car.”

“What?” he replied, mystified.

“You all have lunch passes. Go out now and get in the car and leave
the right back door of your car open and start the car. Dennis, get the
others in your car and go first. Leave room for me in Desmond’s car.”

“What are you going to do?”
“You’re crazy!”
“What are you planning?”
“This teacher is going to give you hell if you’re going to do what I think you’re going to do.”
“Hey, are you serious?”

I was enjoying every moment…the adrenaline is peaking and I was
smiling like a loon, riding that slice in time/space, feeling it. Damn,
it always feels good.

“Yes,” I said, still wearing a wide grin which I imagine looks a lot like the one on the proverbial cat who ate the canary.

The teacher on duty was eying me with suspicion…he knows my
disciplinary record has been less than stellar and I have been getting
a reputation for being unpredictable and impulsive and my lack of
adherence to rules combined with a deep-rooted contempt of authority
made me a little volatile in the personality department. He knew
something was up. I didn’t plan on letting him down.

“Hey, Amy!” I called to the fast approaching girls. They smiled and
walked faster to my shouted greeting. I switched to Mandarin:
“Distract the teacher on duty, I can’t get by him.”

They hesitated in mid-step, unsure of what to do. They knew I didn’t
have a lunch pass, I’ve been griping about it in classes. I wouldn’t
ask them to do anything that would get them in trouble, they’re the
studious types that go through school without a disciplinary record,
and I wouldn’t put them in the difficult position of having to do
something that would jeopardize that. I just wanted the attention of
the teacher diverted for a while.

I looked at him out of the corner of an eye and saw that he’s starting to get wary with my persistent presence at the gate.

“Amy, you going out with Jia Jia?” I asked in English.

“Yeah, we’re going to the dairy shop,” she replied in Mandarin. “What do you want me to do?”

I hear the engines starting up.

“Cover me,” I grinned and spoke in Mandarin, “Show the teacher on
duty your lunch pass. I’ll be damned if he’s going to ruin my plans.
Just walk up to him and get his attention off me for a second.”

“You’re going to get detention at best if you’re thinking about
going out without permission!” she said in a mixture of apprehension
and admiration.

“I’ll worry about that tomorrow,” I told her cheerily.

I looked up and made eye contact with the teacher on duty and
grinned. He didn’t smile back. Oh well. It’s always the wolf that gets
to grin. Sheep don’t really have much to do with the grinning
department.

I watched Amy and Jia Jia go up to him and he seems intent on
keeping me in his sights…but he’s got to look down to check the lunch
passes. He maintained eye contact till the last moment, when Amy showed
her Student ID, before he glanced down.

I looked out. Desmond was watching me from the side windows. I love this; the adrenaline rush makes me feel alive!

I made a run for it. The teacher on duty glanced up sharply at the sounds of the commotion.

Except I wasn’t where he thought I’ll be…I looked back to see the
teacher turning to gawk at the sheer audacity of what I was doing.

“Go, go!” I shouted gleefully as I reached Desmond’s open rear door.
He stepped on the accelerator as I got in the car and slammed the door.
I had the presence of mind to look back and wave at the (still gawking)
teacher as we sped away laughing. I’ll always remember the look on his
face, as he stood impotently, one hand still holding Amy’s Student ID,
his torso in perpetual mid-turn, like a freeze-frame, with his mouth
forming a perfect O of disbelief…

Priceless…

I swear we laughed for a full 15 minutes.

“You’re definitely going to the principal’s office again for this,”
Desmond said when we finally managed to get the hilarious image of the
shocked teacher out of our heads.

“Mate, I hate to break this to you the hard way, but we’re all going, for this stunt,” I said with a crackle.

“Hey, as far as I’m concerned, some crazy guy jumped into my car as
I was about to leave for lunch,” Desmond joked as we headed towards
town.

It was good while it lasted…the juvenile behavior and harmless
fooling around while I was still attending (some) classes. Little did I
know that everyday life was about to get less innocent, more
complicated and a shade darker that very Friday.

End of Black Kingdom: Chapter 6 – The Lunch Gauntlet Run

[ List of Characters ]

Coming up next: Black Kingdom: Chapter 7 – Neon Pink (short)

Black Kingdom: Chapter 5 – "Chink, go back home!"

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
reason.

chink go back home

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
the enemy.”

“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.
Heh.”

“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
them.

“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
casually.

“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
left.

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].

Black Kingdom: Chapter 4 – Veritas vos liberabit

I came to the conclusion that I would seriously need to evaluate
what I’ve been taught – it seems that most of the things that I’ve
learnt was colored by propaganda. I wanted to try everything the world
has to offer, because I seem to have missed out on all the good bits.

veritas vos liberabit

None of my Asian friends take drugs (some of them were quite against
it) so I told Sam that I’m interested in LSD. Incidentally, there was a
rave that weekend, so a bunch of us got some acid tabs from Sam’s
contact. One blotter cost NZ$ 50, which sounds like an obscene amount,
but being high school teenagers in a rather remote country results in
paying more for drugs. It was very much worth it though – my first trip
was absolutely wonderful!

I was told to take the blotter sublingually (i.e. just put it under
the tongue and let it be) and just go with the flow. I didn’t even
notice when it hit me…I suddenly felt that my thought processes were
unusual, nay, bizarre. The ravers around me started
leaving visual trails in their movement and I turned over to Sam. His
face looked rather distorted so I wasn’t completely sure it was
him…and I’ll always remember what happened when I stared blankly at
him. Sam took one look at my dilated pupils, grinned and said “Huai
Bin, you’re tripping!”

Indeed, I was…and I loved every second of it. This was the time I
fell in love with the rave scene. I just felt like everyone had this
common bond. I wouldn’t describe it as the “candy raver/PLUR”
type of bond – raves were (relatively) underground then, and not as
commercialized as it is now. Most people took LSD and it just felt like
everyone was on the same wavelength. I remember one of my
favorite things to do while tripping at raves is to be at the floor and
look at someone and imagine what they do in real life…are they
university students? Are they office workers? I could think up complex
scenarios while on acid and I didn’t even need speed to keep on moving
from 10 PM till 6 AM.

I also started smoking cannabis with Sam, Victoria, Ryan and some
other people I can’t remember. We would split the price of a “tinny”
(NZ$ 20 worth of cannabis) and share it. I still remember the first
time I got really stoned…the four of us were at Sam’s cousin’s house
and we were doing “hot knifes”. I was given the honor of getting the
first hit, since I couldn’t really get stoned the previous times. Sam
was telling me how to inhale really hard as soon as smoke starts coming
out and handed me a 2 liter Coke plastic bottle with the bottom cut off.

I waited in anticipation as Sam placed two knifes across the hot
stove top and Victoria started making little balls of weed. “You’re
going to love this”, she said. The knifes were soon deemed to be hot
enough and Sam held one of them with the blade facing sideways and told
me to get ready as Victoria dropped a ball on the hot metal surface.
The ball of marijuana started smoking almost immediately and I held
onto the bottle as Sam clamped the other knife to cover the ball and
moved the billowing apparatus under my bottle.

“Toke, toke, toke”, the others chanted. I inhaled hard…and was
filled with more smoke that I’ve ever thought my lungs would hold. “Go
as hard as you can”, Sam said as I inhaled even more of the smoke…I
was determined to get stoned this time. I nearly choked when the smoke
was all sucked up and I felt like my lungs are bleeding. “Hold it in”,
Ryan urged me. I held it…and finally coughed and chocked and gasped
for air. Everyone was eager to know…how did I feel?

I didn’t feel anything…except that my lungs hurt. “Alright, here’s
the second hit”, Sam declared and on I went again. That was the one
that pushed me into Cannabis Country. I said I’ve had enough, would
need some rest for my lungs and as I watched the others smoke, I
started to notice that sounds were getting muffled and I had this thing pressing against my cheek. I kept on wondering what it was, it took me minutes to figure out it was my tongue. Sheesh.

I looked at Ryan choking on his hit and his expression suddenly
seemed extremally hilarious, I couldn’t stop laughing, and laugh I did.
I laughed and laughed, driving everyone to uncontrolled laughter and
when I tried to stop laughing to make my stomach stop cramping up,
Victoria looked at me and said “Oh my God, you’re so stoned, look at
your eyes!” between gasps of laughter. I was still laughing when the
others confirmed that yes, I was indeed stoned. I looked at myself in
the mirror and noticed my bloodshot eyes.

We went into the bedroom to watch TV and suddenly, when some
chocolate chip cookies were produced, I felt that I could eat every
single one. “It’s the munchies”, Sam told me. It was slightly
uncomfortable, but I liked being stoned. We later all piled into the
car and Victoria drove (the concept of responsible driving wasn’t
exactly familiar then) to Big Gary’s, a local chip shop that had huge
hot dogs – foot long sausages covered in batter and deep fried and
slathered with tomato sauce. I never had anything better.

This was the beginning of the stoners club, we smoked weed almost
every night, and I stumbled into my room totally stoned after being
dropped off at my home stay. I remember many memories of the Riccarton
stoners club – the times we smoked cannabis and attended class and
tried not to laugh, the drama practices we went to while stoned, the
visits to Big Gary’s, and this particularly funny incident where we
were smoking at Sam’s house and his mother asked us what we were doing.

She shouted from her bedroom and asked what we were up to, making
such a commotion so late on a school night. I’ll never forget Sam’s
reply…we were all eating the foot long hot dogs, but he somehow
replied “Nothing, we’re just eating our hot doughnuts!”. It took a
while for the comment to register. We all started laughing
hysterically, it seemed so funny at that time, and it still sounds
funny to me. We were eating hot dogs, but Sam said doughnuts for some
reason. He was puzzled at our laughter until I managed to gasp out
“It’s…hot…hahaha…hot…hahaha…dogs.
Not…hot…doughnuts…hahaha!”.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life and everyone was
in tears, and when the rest of us started to maintain some semblance of
composure, Sam suddenly got the mistake and laughed again, which of
course, fuelled another round of laughter from us. The hot doughnuts
inside joke became our slang for smoking cannabis. “Everyone up for
some hot doughnuts tonight?” was our code for the nightly weed smoking
sessions. I loved dropping acid and going to raves, I loved smoking
cannabis everyday.

The socio-dynamics of this microcosm called “high school” is
understandably different from the real world. I found out that suddenly
everyone knows my name and people started smiling and saying hello
between classes. I found myself propelled to “cool” status just because
I take drugs and I hang out with the “popular crowd”. I suddenly had
too many house parties to attend, too many raves to go to, too many
friends to hang out with and this resulted in some resentment from my
Asian friends and other Asians in the school for breaking some unspoken
rule about socializing with Caucasians instead of sticking together.

I was accused of not having time for Ah Boon and the rest anymore,
and they were increasing incidents of “Kia, wa lang kaki ki, e mai chak
wa lang liaw” (Come, let’s go, he’s not interested in hanging out with
us anymore) within my hearing range. I didn’t understand this, though I
was too busy between puking at drinking parties and getting stoned to
care. Gerald was particularly envious at the developments, and, having
the same classes as me, he had taken to walking next to me while
muttering “Look at all the Kiwis greeting you, it’s like everyone in
the school knows you!”

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I had lots of
friends, too many things to do, and frequent dates with Kiwi girls,
something which was previously unheard of. I lost my virginity
(according to Bill Clinton’s definition of the word) to a girl named
Natalie. I heard that she likes me, and I would not be lying when I say
she is absolutely stunning. She’s a Kiwi girl of about 165 cm, with big
eyes, long brownish blond hair, and a breathtakingly amazing smile. I
didn’t take much notice of her before as she was one year younger than
me.

We had days when we could wear anything to school, and before the
next time it happened, I asked to borrow her skirt, to wear to the
school as a stunt. I walked her home and she gave me her skirt. She
lives with her mom, who’s never at home in the afternoon and I spent
some time there, talking in her kitchen. She was obviously attracted to
me, and I suddenly realized what I could do, but I didn’t have
the self-confidence to do it right then. I just borrowed her skirt and
kissed her and went back home, telling her that I would call her.

I did call her…and asked her to be my girlfriend. She agreed. No
one had any problems with different race relationships, since I was
considered “one of them”. I was surprised though, that the ones who
were against it were the Asians in the school. I had apparently broken
some unspoken rule again, and virtually no Asian in the school talked
to me. I didn’t care though, I was on a mission – everyone I know
seemed to be sexually experienced (or claimed to be so) and I wasn’t
going to let this opportunity pass me by.

I wore Natalie’s skirt to school the next day, to the cheers of my
friends and to open insults from the Asians who liberally used the word
“sia soi” within hearing range. It means “bringing shame (to some
group)”. I didn’t care though. I had done my publicity stunt and she
was happy that I actually wore it like I said I would. I walked her
back again that day, and this time we talked in her bedroom, which I
remember is the first room from the living room.

We kissed…and started to touch each other. I was slipping my hand
up her bare thigh when suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, I felt my
raging member…fail me. My proud soldier, who was previously standing
at full attention, had fainted before action. My rod, transfigured into
a prune. A small prune. “What’s wrong?”, I remember her asking
as I suddenly stopped. I panicked and realized that I was only wearing
her skirt and I couldn’t let her know and in my adolescent clumsiness,
I made up an excuse about having to go somewhere with Sam and
practically ran out, fearing that the distinct lack of a tent in the
front of the skirt will give me away.

She called me that night and asked if I would walk her home again
the next day. I reluctantly agreed, fearing a repeat of my performance
(or the lack of it, rather). I thought about why I could not get Mr.
Happy to introduce himself and came up with several conclusions:

#1 I was worried that my size would be inadequate.
#2 I didn’t have any experience and I was worried that it would be obvious.
#3 I was afraid of contracting an STD.

I took off her skirt that night and found the sweet smelling hanky
(I don’t know what she dabbed it in, but I’ll recognize the scent right
away if I smell it again) she still had in her pocket. I tried
practicing – fantasizing about her, starting with what I would do
tomorrow when I walked her home. I found out that I could perform solo
quite adequately, and this was proved when I ejaculated into the bed
sheets after manually stimulating myself…and immediately regretted
it, coz it adds another one to the list:

#4 I was worried I won’t be able to get it up tomorrow coz I already had masturbated today.

It took a lot of stern talks to myself while facing the mirror to
prepare for tomorrow. I told myself after measuring (from the bottom)
that I wasn’t as under endowed as I think I am, and convinced myself
that I was average and even if I wasn’t, it won’t matter anyway, since
this is about the virgin, me (she told me she’s had a sexual partner
before, we did talk about sex, which was why I know tomorrow is going
to be the day). That’s #1 taken care off and I mentally struck it off
the list.

There was a problem with #2…I told her that I’ve had sexual
experience before too, when I actually hadn’t. I quickly took a crash
course in female anatomy from Ryan who was more than happy to sketch
this rough schematic of where the insertion point should be. I had read
many medical books about the female anatomy and also many non-medical
books depicting female genitalia, so I shouldn’t be worried, I told
myself. But I did double check with Ryan, just in case. I told myself
that all the porn and sex stories I’ve read would have to make up for
my lack of experience. Two down, two to go.

#3 was not really hard to get over, since hormones had more of a say
in my life then. I got some STD infection rates from a magazine and
calculated my chances (I was quite sure that the brand new calculator I
was given for school work was used for the first time then) and decided
that it was a low risk, considering the fact that she’s still 15* and
the rates of transmission were acceptable to warrant a tryst with a
girl of such aesthetic appeal.
* The legal age of consent is officially 16, but from my understanding
of the law, there is a provision which states it is NOT considered
statutory rape when consensual sexual intercourse happens between two people close
to the age of consent, even though one of the participants is
technically a minor, providing the age difference is not greater than
two years. It was only a couple of months in this case.

The bit about #4 was starting to worry me when I didn’t feel the
familiar blood rushing to the trouser snake when I forced myself to
have sexual fantasies the next morning…but resolved itself when I
jumped into the shower and my third leg stretched itself when the
shower water fell upon it. It was sorted then. I will not be nervous. I
will not chicken out. I will not let this opportunity where a beautiful
Kiwi girl is outright suggesting sexual intercourse pass me by. I shall
be a man, not a virgin, when I step back into this house, I told
myself. I can do it!

And I did. I must admit that it was a little disappointing though. I
had expected my first time having sex to be much more pleasurable than
all the climaxes of my 16 years of self-stimulation combined together
and multiplied by 10. I wanted fireworks, thunder, brimstone and
hellfire! I didn’t get that…in fact, I’ll admit that masturbating was
much more pleasurable compared to my first sexual experience. There was
nothing technically wrong with it, mind. It was just a case of rose
tinted sexual fantasies exposed to the harsh light of reality.

I walked Natalie home. We went to the bedroom and started kissing. I
started caressing her thigh. She went to her mom’s room and produced a
condom. I went down on her – I had wanted to taste her. This was a
mistake, because I had apparently broken some rule of sex which
dictates that breasts should be administered to before making a trip
down South. She later asked me if I didn’t find her breasts attractive.
I told her that she definitely has a nice pair of twins, it’s just my
habit to dine at the Y before eating melons.

But that’s digressing…anyway, after I had gotten her (shaved, but
you didn’t need to know that, I’m sure) beaver sufficiently wet, and
aroused, I took off my clothes, and thankfully, my trouser snake was
alive and well and eyeing the beaver hungrily. I applied the
prophylactic device and made penetration (it was harder than I thought)
after the second try. I didn’t realize how hard I had to push to get
in. I thought that it would be as easy as soap slipping out of clumsy
grips in the shower.

It was only after this that I began removing her sweater while we
assumed the missionary position. I had a hard time removing her bra,
damn those clasp thingies at the back. She helped me to remove the top
and I only managed to suck on her…well, nipples, I have run out of
euphemisms, before I started feeling tired. I was unprepared. I didn’t
know sex required so much energy compared to masturbation (which is
basically right arm movement). I decided to go make a trip down South
again to catch my breath.

It was during this time that I noticed that my trouser snake’s
sweater had slipped off. It was a day mired with unfortunate happenings
instead. I forced myself not to think about the ramifications and
concentrated on the figures and the low risk of transmission rate and
just put it back on. Anyway, after a little carpet munching (second
helpings never tastes right, due to the latex, if you get what I mean),
I noticed that she was about to come. I was glad that I was doing at
least something right, and I brought her to climax orally, moaning
softly. It seems that I was at least quite the cunning linguist, if not
anything else.

She pulled me up and then smiled at me and told me to lie down
before returning the favor. I have to admit, it wasn’t as pleasurable
as I thought it was. Teeth. Not nice. It was a little more painful than
pleasant so I pulled her up and got her into the woman on top position.
She did the exertions this time and before long, I reached the apogee,
pulling her down as I did and kissing her. I immediately regretted
doing this, for the change in position made my member slip out when I
was only about 3/4 into my enjoyment.

I usually manually stimulate myself until the end of the ejaculation
so feeling a climax while not having constant friction towards the end
was a little strange and slightly disappointing. I couldn’t very well
jack myself off, so I conceded with rubbing against her thigh. I guess
being used to masturbation made the less customized movement of a
female a little less intense. However, I was glad that I had actually
done the deed and it was with her. :)

It just wasn’t what I expected, though I told her that I thoroughly
enjoyed it. She confirmed my linguistic capabilities and we hugged
while making post-coital talk. I told her I liked her hanky and she
told me I can have it. I did keep it for quite a long time, though the
last I saw of it was in a luggage back in Christchuch. What happened to
Natalie? Well, that’s just the thing, nothing happened. I realized that
I don’t actually love her, nor do I want a relationship with
her. We just didn’t have much in common. She doesn’t take drugs while I
do, so the relationship kinda petered out after a while.

There wasn’t a breakup or anything like that, we just slowly started
hanging out more and more with our own circle of friends until it was a
non-verbal but understood “just friends” thing. However, word about our
bedroom adventures did get out though, it was the school culture to
publicly broadcast such things. She told her friends and I told mine.
It was the topic of discussion for a while, before the next couple’s
exploits were related. I don’t know where she is now, but I still
remember her name and I have a tendency to automatically be friendly to
people called Natalie. I think it’s a nice name. I don’t consider her
my “first” girlfriend, since it basically just teenage hormones and
attraction.

Like I said, it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
Here’s where the latter comes in…my sister found out I was taking
drugs and told my parents and there was a lot of emotional blackmail,
downright threats, and intentions for them to come over. It’s all the
wrong things to say to a 16 year old. I told them I was legally an
adult here and didn’t need them, and didn’t want their financial
support. I drank heavily and made no effort to hide the fact that I was
pissed drunk even BEFORE going to school. People thought I was hard coz
I gulp down Bacardi straight before going to classes. I was just trying
to make a point. I told them I was going to move out of the home stay,
and I behaved in a manner that made the host extremely receptive to
this idea.

I was openly smoking cannabis in my room with my friends. I made a
dollar here and there by “passing things on” to other people in the
school. I had loud arguments filled with obscenities with my parents.
The other tenants complained about the noise and the tobacco and
cannabis smoke coming out of my room. There was more arguments with my
parents with very nasty things said, which I now regret, including the
destruction of several phones in the house. I crashed at Sam’s place
some nights. I had speed (amphetamine) for the first time and I loved
it. It makes me aggressive and confident, which further exacerbated the
problems with my family. I took more and more drugs, just out of spite
and for the sake of rebelling against my family.

Like I said, I just wanted to make a point – attempt to control me
when I’m legally an adult here and I’ll do more things that goes
against your beliefs.

Thus, my steady relationship with drugs began…the sometimes
dangerous but irresistible dance that never ends. The partners have
changed through the times, and there is one that I wish I had never
danced with. Mesmerizing and seductive, she promised me the world…and
I believed her. The longer she holds me, the more certain I am that she
would never ever let me go until I can dance no more. However, as I
look into the eyes that looks lovingly back at me, silently telling me
that I can be all that I want to be, as long as I never let go…and
with that hypnotic assurance, I know that I don’t ever want her to
release her reassuring arms from around me, to break from this warm
embrace, weary as I am. Methamphetamine, my bride. Till death do us
part…

Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, nous aurons besoin l’un de l’autre.

End of Black Kingdom: Chapter 4 – Veritas vos liberabit

[ List of Characters ]

Next: Black Kingdom: Chapter 5 – “Chink, go back home!” [sixthseal.com].

Footnote:
1. veritas vos liberabit is Latin for “The truth will set you free”.
2. Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, nous aurons besoin l’un de l’autre is a phrase from Le Petit Prince. It translates as “But, if you tame me, we shall need each other”.

Black Kingdom: Chapter 3 – Bonding

bonding

I didn’t really get to bond with them until one fateful weekend. It
was during lunch break on Friday when Aaron suggested that we go to
Palladium that night. Palladium is a club in the Christchurch city
which enforces a 21 and above only entry rule due to alcohol being
served. I was fascinated (and slightly apprehensive as well) – I’ve
never stepped foot inside a nightclub before. I’ve always been told
that these places are evil and I shouldn’t ever patronize one.

The years of parental propaganda wrestled with the strangely
attractive notion of doing something “bad”…and it was the latter that
prevailed, albeit with slight tinges of guilt. The others have all been
in there before and assured me that I won’t be asked for ID. I beg to
differ coz I have a rather innocent and young looking face. I would not
pass as a 21 year old unless the bouncers all happen to have a long due
appointment with their optician.

Thus, Aaron got me a fake ID from one of his university friends. The
photograph on the ID does not look like me at all and the name was an
Indonesian name. I had to memorize the name and the birthday. Anyway,
the others told me about the dress code and we arranged to meet in
front of the Riccarton High School gates at around 7 PM. We had planned
to crash at Tom’s house so I brought along a change of clothes in my
backpack as well.

I have never stepped foot into any entertainment venues before
this…tonight was going to change all that. I was looking forward
(with some trepidation) to what my mind’s eye imagined the club would
be like. The four of us met up at the rendezvous point and walked to
Church Corner to catch the bus to the city. We went to have dinner at
what would be our regular haunt in the days to come – the Chinese
eatery near the town square. The wonton was really good and relatively
cheap at NZ$ 6.

It was time to head into the club. I was constantly reminded to walk
in confidently and not to look guilty. There were two bouncers outside
the door of Palladium and I avoided eye contact with them and tried to
walk in nonchalantly behind Aaron…until I heard one of the bouncers
say “Hang on mate, can I see some proof of age please?” The others
stopped with me while I passed the fake ID to the bouncer. He looked at
the card and gave me the once over and asked me what year I was born in.

I faltered before remembering the birth date on the fake ID. “I’m
26, born in 1970″, I replied and tried to look insulted at this
affront. The bouncer raised his eyebrows skeptically and I silently
cursed Aaron for getting a fake ID that puts me 10 years older than I
really am. However, the bouncer just shrugged and handed the card back
to me and waved us inside. I’m in!!! We had a good laugh about how
Asians must look all the same to Caucasians because no one would
mistake an Indonesian for a Chinese.

Palladium was not what I expected…I have been fed with stories
about the sinful debauchery and violence that occurs inside clubs was
expecting it to be some dirty den filled with society rejects. I was
rather surprised to see everyday people in the club – university
students, office workers…normal people. There goes another false
depiction drilled into me since I was young. We secured a table beside
the dance floor and ordered a round of drinks.

I have never had any alcohol before so I sipped my bottle of
Heineken tentatively. We had a bit of a boogie at the dance floor and
after two hours, Ah Boon noticed that I was still holding the
very same bottle, which had barely three small sips taken out of it. He
asked me whether I had bought more drinks and I said it’s the same
bottle from when we came in. He was appalled at the speed (or rather
the lack of it) of my drinking. ;)

It was rather funny, now that I think back to it. I told him that I
was afraid of getting drunk and didn’t feel like drinking it anymore. I
handed it to him and he gamely chugged the relatively full bottle down.
I wasn’t inebriated at all…it was just all that propaganda that made
me fear being drunk that prevented me from imbibing the golden amber fluid. I later realized that I have a high alcohol tolerance…

However, that was not true for Tom. He has a very low alcohol
tolerance and was completely inebriated and flushed from just one beer
and one shot of tequila. He kept on saying he felt like throwing up and
later resorted to lying in the fetal position at the plush chairs at
our table and told us to wake him when we leave. We left soon after
that though, coz Tom was complaining that he had a pounding headache.

We went to the 24 hour KFC nearby to get some supper. Tom promptly
threw up and did so again during the taxi ride back to his house. He
immediately fell asleep when he got home and we got some rest too. It
was around 12 PM when we woke up the next day. I had expected that
we’re going to head home. I was still a newbie at that time and one
night was considered a big one then.

However, the others had plans to go play pool at this snooker and
pool outlet in the city called 9 ball. I was wondering whether I should
go or not, since I was pretty tired…I’m not used to sleeping anywhere
other than my own bed so I didn’t get much sleep the night before. I
was intrigued by pool and snooker centers though, coz the propaganda
machine told me it was full of juvenile delinquents so I decided to go
along and see if that was true. Strike two, another parent instilled
horror story disproved.

Ah Boon taught me how to play pool…the setting of the balls, the
way to properly hold the cue, the method of striking without deviating
from the aim, how to hit different spots to manipulate the ball
movement, how to follow through and stop for positioning, about solid
and stripe balls, the angles to hit the balls to pocket them -
basically, the rules of the game for someone who hasn’t played pool
before. I loved it. It helped that the heroin chic looking (in a good
way) girl who manned the counter was really friendly and hot too. ;)

It was night when we left and we grabbed some fish and chips to eat while waiting for the bus back.

End of Black Kingdom: Chapter 3 – Bonding

[ List of Characters ]

Next: Black Kingdom: Chapter 4 – Veritas vos liberabit [sixthseal.com].

Black Kingdom: Chapter 2 – A Brave New World

a brave new world

I didn’t know what lead to it, but the four of us started to walk
together and talk like old friends, joking around and everything. The
events during the school sports day started to bore us, so Ah Boon
suggested that we head off to smoke. Smoking! It was unheard of in my
limited social circle, which consisted mostly of “good” people, when I
was back home. I was apprehensive but attracted as well so I went along
even though I haven’t started smoking then. I was interested to try
though, but parental conditioning made me turn down the offer of
cigarettes by Ah Boon.

I was only 15 at that time as my birthday had not passed yet. I
still remember what I asked when Ah Boon, Tom, Aaron and Chen lighted
up. I said, aren’t you worried about lung cancer? Boon had a strange
answer – he didn’t mind dying early as long as it’s an enjoyable life
and smoking is one of life’s greater pleasures. I even remember what
everyone smokes – Ah Boon favors Dunhills but would go with Mild
Sevens. Tom would only smoke Dunhills or this Japanese brand of
cigarette that has one word – “kaze” for wind in the front. Aaron on
the other hand doesn’t care for anything except Davidoffs.

We walked around Church Corner, where my house and the high school
is located. There is dairy shop right there that has this dodgy looking
but nice guy who sells cigarettes and adult magazines to anyone, even
if you’re in school uniform. :) It’s not your run of the mill Playboy
and Penthouse magazines, he carries the hardcore mags too, and always
wraps it in a black bag when selling to minors. Heh. The legal age to
purchase cigarettes was 16 at that time in New Zealand, but 1996 also
saw a legislation change that made the age limit 18 instead of 16.

I remember a funny incident that happened during the day of the
legislation change. I had started smoking later, and there was a very
strict but nearer dairy opposite my shop. I was unable to purchase
cigarettes till the day I turned 16, and I proudly displayed my Student
ID as prove of age and bought a pack of cigarettes…and the law
changed a scant week later, to which the strict but near dairy owner
went “Hah! I know you can’t be 18 coz you just turned 16 a week ago! No
cigarettes to minors.”.

That forced me to walk to the further but lenient dairy at church
corner. The four of us hung out once in a while, mostly in school, but
I was still going out more frequently with Sam and the others then.
Besides the drama production practice, we sometimes go to this youth
group, which is an interesting mix of half innocent kids and half not
so innocent teenagers. Cannabis was a common drug then, one tinny
(foil) goes for NZ$ 20 and it has about 1 gram or so of weed.

However, I have still not smoked nor taken any drugs at that point.
A lot of my friends are users (on Sam’s side), but I had read that
drugs are bad mmmkay, so I just passed the joint along whenever someone
has weed, which is quite frequent. The availability of cannabis and LSD
was to high school students was surprising. I was interested in
chemical and plant substances due to reading a lot about it and wanting
personal experience, but I was still not comfortable about even smoking
weed then.

My first cigarette was at this all nighter youth group function
where several vans full of people went Go Kart racing, then adjourned
to an indoor water park, before going to a laser tag game and then a
ball at some far away horticulture place before ending the night with
two back to back movies. I remember one of the movies I watched was
Mars Attacks! It was an all day till the next morning event, and it was
during the ball that I first started smoking.

There was this girl chain smoking the whole night, even making the
driver make stops to buy more cigarettes. Everyone calls her Kitty.
She’s from my school as well, but one year younger than me and I
remember Abba’s Dancing Queen playing during the ball and I was
standing beside her and she asked me if I wanted a smoke. I thought
about it and reckoned that since I was interested to try, now is a good
time as any.

We shared a cigarette and she laughed at my inability to inhale. :)
She taught me how to properly smoke a cigarette, not just holding the
smoke in the mouth and exhaling, but chasing the smoke down with
another intake of breath so it gets into your lungs. I wouldn’t say
that I liked the taste of tobacco, but it was a memorable experience
and the song that played during that time still reminds me of that day.

End of Black Kingdom: Chapter 2 – A Brave New World

[ List of Characters ]

Next: Black Kingdom: Chapter 3 – Bonding [sixthseal.com].

Black Kingdom: Chapter I – Preface

preface

There was once a gang which was called “Black Kingdom”. The decision
to form the gang happened at one of the most unlikely places and the
rise and fall of one of the Asian gangs in Christchurch, NZ in 1996
would be documented through the eyes of Kevin, the protagonist and
narrator in this fictional story. Kevin will be referred to in the
first person in this piece of writing. The story will start from the
very beginning – orientation day at Riccarton High School. All names,
places and events are entirely fictional and any resemblance to actual
events is purely coincidental.

Preface

I was 16 and I was sitting at a desk in front of a classroom waiting
for orientation to begin. It was my first time being so far from home
and without parental supervision. The day was cold and everyone was
rather silent…except for two Malaysian guys talking and acting in a
boisterous fashion at the back. Suddenly, a guy sauntered in, wearing
the blue jersey of Riccarton High School and grinned at the two guys at
the back and loud greetings were exchanged. I found out later that they
were not new to Christchurch – they were all ex Hornby High School
students.

Orientation begins and a guy called Gerald from Kuching seemed
intent on befriending me, while I was more interested in hanging out
with the other guys. I also got to know several other people during
orientation, which will be minor characters in this story. There were
mostly girls from Kuching, interestingly most of the orientation batch
are Malaysians. There was also a short guy from Thailand who we called
Dang. He had a really cute Japanese girlfriend called Shinobu.

The cast in this story is convoluted, so I will compile a List of
Characters as a reference at the end of every chapter and it will be
updated when more people are introduced. Gerald, a tall, stocky guy
from Kuching stuck to me like glue. I was immature at that time and I
wasn’t interested in befriending him. However, we did get to be friends
due to taking similar classes. I also had classes with the two guys
from Kuching – Ah Bi and Richard. We could choose our subjects in New
Zealand high schools.

The first few weeks were pretty uneventful and boring. I hung out
more with Kiwis than Asian people because I took Form 6 English while
the others were taking ESL (English as a Second Language). Sam, one of
the most popular guys in school took me under his wing when I went for
this drama audition where I didn’t know anyone. Sam is Eurasian, but he
looks Caucasian and due to drama practice, I got into his circle of
friends, the majority of which were Kiwis.

Sports day came along and even though I didn’t feel like going, I
dragged myself out of bed and went. Like I’ve mentioned, my friends
were mostly Kiwi and this caused some resentment from certain Asians
because they thought I was “too good” for them. I remember my first
encounter with Ah Boon, the guy who sauntered into the classroom during
orientation day. I was walking to the toilet when he called out:

“Wah, chi ko lang, ah neh tiaw keh, bo ka wa lang teng nang cham eh.”

That translates to: Hey, look at him, he’s so arrogant, he doesn’t mix with us Asians.

I looked at him and saw him grinning at me. Ah Boon is a relatively
tall guy from Kuching of slim build. He has a tendency to describe
himself as yen tau, or handsome in Hokkien. It was all in jest though,
so no one minded. He was good looking in a clean cut way, though he has
long hair all around his face. His hair was straight though, and it
frames his face well. I noticed that he’s now hanging out with three
guys named Tom, Aaron and Chen (all Taiwanese) instead of the two
Kuching guys from before.

I couldn’t think of anything to reply him with, so I smiled back and
walked towards the port-a-potties. He wasn’t dissuaded though, he
immediately nudged Tom and said “lu kua, bo chap eh, tik tik gia”
(“Look, he’s not even acknowledging us, walking straight away”). The
phrase was said in a friendly and harmless way, which is known as
“gek/kek” in Hokkien as opposed to “suan” which implies malicious
intent.

I liked him instantly. Most people do, due to his accommodating and
pleasant nature. He’s what one would describe as “wei peng you si”. The
direct translation is “willing to die for his/his friends” and it’s a
phrase that means a lot in Asian culture – someone willing to go out of
their way for their friends.

End of Black Kingdom: Chapter 1 – Preface

[ List of Characters ]

Next: Black Kingdom: Chapter 2 – A Brave New World [sixthseal.com].

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