He’s a big guy, but big is an understatement. He is big to most people the way a pterodactyl is to a hummingbird. He is the kind of guy that has never been in a real fight because his mere presence is enough to deter most people from even thinking about it, and those who do think about it reconsider after their first punch accomplishes precisely nothing. He has a look that makes people scatter like cockroaches when the lights come on. It isn’t intentional. It’s just something he carries with him. Most folk would need a ladder to hit him in the face anyway, which made his broken nose and black eye all the more unreal when I saw it. He had a gash that ran straight from under his right eye over the bridge of his nose.
That is not to say that his face and body is otherwise pristine. On the contrary, he has scars up and down, from side to side, and he walks with a cane as a result of a fight with a forklift some years back. Those were the kind of scars that you could tell were inflicted by work, or by his own human failings and bad judgment calls. This new scar had a human stink to it.
As he precariously perched on the bar stool, three sizes too small for comfort, and I handed him his usual cola on ice, I asked him what happened. He sighed, as if this was the nth time he had been asked this question and it probably was. Everyone he knew probably asked him the same thing. A broken nose on a guy like that is definitely something that provokes curiosity. He took a draw from his carbonated beverage and told the tale.
He was at a party the night before talking to a girl. It was difficult to imagine him as a party guy and even stranger to think of him talking to a girl, but these were the facts. He was talking to this girl, when suddenly, he heard a voice below him yelling. He looked down and saw a small Puerto Rican homosexual standing there, waggling a finger at him. He didn’t make the assumption that the little man was a Puerto Rican homosexual. He knew these descriptors to be true since that’s what the tiny little person in front of him was yelling about.
The pint-sized Puerto Rican, like a pedestrian facing off against a tank, was yelling that he didn’t appreciate that kind of talk. He didn’t take kindly to people calling things gay unless they were referring to homosexual men. His Puerto Rican heritage would not allow that to stand.
While the tiny man was assailing his ears, he scoured his memory as to what he and his lady friend had been discussing before they were interrupted. He couldn’t remember the precise words, but he knew for a fact that he had not referred to anything, a homosexual man or otherwise, as gay. Our tank gently explained to the fly buzzing in his ear that he said nothing of the kind. He had nothing against homosexuals and he certainly didn’t say anything offensive. He explained to his new friend that he had misheard him, but by this time, the little guy was fuming.
The little man, about waist high to the giant, grabbed the giant’s own cane, thereby knocking him off balance, propelling him backwards onto the sofa. The Puerto Rican heaved the cane back as far as his little arm would take it and brought it to rest squarely across the middle of the tank’s face. He had not been expecting such a maneuver. It had been so long since someone had even attempted that kind of thing that he had completely forgotten how to block. The cane hit solidly across the bridge of his nose and eye. It contained all the power that the little guy could muster.
Both of them were nonplussed for a moment, unsure of what should happen next. The Puerto Rican had a look on his face that implied that his arm had acted independently of his body. He was quite embarrassed by its action and would give it a stern talking-to when they got home, but the regret was just beginning. It wasn’t until he looked at the giant’s face that he realized the full scope of the mistake his arm had just made.
The face, as broad as Mount Rushmore, was now dripping with blood by his doing. The Puerto Rican gently swung the cane up and stretched it across both of his upturned palms as if he were presenting a samurai sword, complete with a bow. The giant took the cane, replaced it to its usual spot under his right hand and stood up. The Puerto Rican ran away. The giant rightfully thought that he ran away forever, but a moment later, he returned from the kitchen with great gobs of paper towels trailing from both hands. He contritely offered them to the tank the same way he had offered him his cane.
The lady friend, who had watched the entire show with horror and a slack jaw, sprung into action and berated the little man in much the same way that he had upbraided the giant. She told him that he was wrong. That they had been talking about music. There had been no reference to anything regarding race, color, gender, creed, and most importantly, sexual orientation. She accusingly pointed a finger towards the giant and bade him apologize. The Puerto Rican turned back to the giant, bowed again and said that he was so terribly sorry for what transpired. He would be happy to pay for any medical expenses if need be. His name was Juan and he would be more than willing to suck it up and take any reprisals that the giant found necessary to resolve the situation.
The giant laughed. He told him that it had been so long since anyone had struck him that he was kind of glad of the experience again. He complimented Juan on his inventiveness regarding hitting him with his own cane. He told Juan that he should really be careful with his pint-sized anger though. Some guys might not take it so well. Juan was relieved. All three of them sat down on the sofa and ended up talking most of the night.
As the tank sat there on the bar stool, he looked me in the eye and told me that there’s just no winning a fight with a little guy. If you beat up a little guy and you’re big, everyone thinks you are a horrible monster for picking on someone clearly not your own size. If a little guy beats you up, everyone thinks you are weak and maybe they can take you on. Either way, you lose.