Once we had come in, the rain started to layer the Chinatown streets with deep puddles. It was 2 o'clock in the morning. We'd just come from a dark club and our eyes hadn't adjusted to the florescent lit diner. I threw up two fingers. "Choose any table," a waiter said in his fresh off the plane accent.
My close friend and I chose a table by the window. Layers of prior meals washed with soiled napkins and warm tea made the table sticky, dingy. The menus were well worn by repeated usage from drunk bar hoppers. The faint smell of the kitchen and the light clanging of ladles striking woks percolated.
An older waitress strolled to our table and grinned, turning her eyes to slanted slits. Cheeks healthy with the greasy foods the wait staff must eat every night. "Ready to ohdah?"
I nodded and ordered the Hong Kong style noodles, combination. Not the best to keep my girlish figure, but it was late and I was starving. My friend only eats kosher and just drank water.
Just then two men were seated directly behind me. One of them had gelled, brown hair that flared out like he jumped out of a plane. He plopped down and the back of his chair shoved mine forward. I thought I was going to tip over. So I leaned back against his chair. The waiter took their order and left. Crazy hair leaned back against the chair. I pushed back. This went on for five minutes.
Deciding I didn't want to do this anymore, I turned around in my chair, tapped his shoulder and was about to ask him to move his chair up.
"Why you touching me?" Crazy Hair said. He was Colombian.
"Can you move your--"
Crazy Hair stands up, throws his hands to the side. "Why you touching me? You want to do something?"
"You're hitting the back of my chair," I said.
"You hitting, too. It's not my fault."
At this point I don't remember the conversation much. My teacher always taught me to deescalate the situation. But once Crazy stood up, threw his arms to the side, deescalation went out the window. He took a position of power, standing up, and began to antagonize me. He was going to hit me.
My mind became silent. My body wanted to tense up, but it didn't. I remained calm. I was highly aware of my right arm, ready to launch. My legs were well prepared to leap up. My abs sat on the edge of clenching. I was staring right in to his milky green, brown eyes, watching for a flicker. The flicker that telegraphs movement. My peripheral vision kept a close watch of his hands. Any sudden, sharp movement made, and my body would have exploded. I could feel it edging closer and closer to attacking. My spoken words were broken because I wasn't listening to what he said.
"I'm just joking, man. I'm not from this country," Crazy Hair said, waving his hands around my face.
I put my hands on my chin to block anything he may try. "You're Colombian, right?"
"How do you know?"
"I used to have a close friend who was Colombian."
"Ah." He laughs. He looks over at my friend, who happens to be my teacher. "You look bothered."
I'd totally forgot my friend was there. His 6'2" frame was imposing. But it's nothing compared to his stare. When I looked over, my teacher was ready to pounce. "I'm not bothered," my friend said, and smiled. His eyes didn't.
"I'm sorry. I'm not from this country," Crazy repeats. "Sometimes I go crazy cuz of my blood. Come over, sit with us."
I looked at his friend who seemed calm. Why was he so calm?
"Come sit with us."
I said no.
"What? I'm apologize for this, but if you want to go to what we do before, let's do it."
Tsing Tao beers were served. Crazy's friend egged him to sit down in Spanish. After a minute, Crazy pulled his chair to the side and sat down. I've been in amateur full contact fights, but this was pretty intense. In a tournament fight, I know I'm going to fight. Last night, however, would have been my first real fight. Win or lose, I was ready. My friend/teacher was ready. With their drunken stupor and poor judge of character, I'm sure we would have prevailed and spent the night behind bars for doing so.