Saturday, June 23, 2007

The one guy, they call him by his last name. They all do. He had a strange and absent look about him. Pale hair above a numb and ghostly face. He seemed to be struggling a bit to pay attention and I almost felt sorry for him somehow, but of course this was really because he'd been all day drinking – Evan said he got promoted at his job and took Friday and Monday off to bookend a nice, lost weekend – but that didn't occur to me right away, so much as his awful and bleak persona.

We sat down in the theater. It was a pan-cultural drumming show, lots of leaping. Music made with the unlikeliest of tools.

Last Name Guy belched loudly and not for the first time. The woman in the seat in front of him turned around and said, "Would you stop it with the burping?" Almost immediately, as though he'd expected her to say this, he replied with "My bad." The effect of this was somewhat dismissive and perhaps mocking but for the moment it was accepted and everyone let their eyes drift to the stage.

I tried to relax and pay attention to the performers. They were wearing a confusion of scant, outlandish outfits, suggesting mythic Middle Eastern harems and the extras in "Mad Max." They were really quite good and the music, even, was not in the least offensive.

A peal of chatter erupted to the right of me. Evan and Last Name Guy, and maybe Lauren too. I don't know what they were fucking talking about. Then Last Name Guy burped good and loud this time and the woman turned around and, quite a bit more spitefully, said, "Will you STOP with the TALKING and the FUCKING BURPING?" and immediately there was a confused commotion farther down the aisle. Others in the woman's row had turned around and evidently someone else had spoken, perhaps gestured, and Lauren was saying, "They have to leave!" and Evan was up on his feet and – swinging! – connection on his punches, holding the guy in front of him with his left hand and hitting him furiously with his right fist, again and again and again and again. I perceived an almost soundless gasp rise collectively from the crowd about us, thinning out the atmosphere as in a storm.

I noticed that the players were still playing upon their stage. Pictures of professionalism. Every other neck was turned our way, though. I felt mildly hypnotized by the commotion; even as Evan was swinging and Last Name Guy was trying to dart into the fray I felt quite safe. Sara had to lean over to remind me to get out of there and I said oh yeah, and we slinked away to empty seats in the back row. It took a strangely long time for the staff to descend upon the scene, to understand it and order the transgressors out. This seemed to be done silently, by the way, with emphatic pointing, perhaps in deference to the performance still underway. But the clipped shouts, pushing, punching – this seemed to go on for a surprisingly long time, let's say a minute.

And finally it did end and Evan, Lauren and Last Name Guy walked past us, out, and we watched the rest of the show, happy for its pantomimes of violence, its slapstick drama.