It was 2005. There were only two Halo games and one type of XBox. That night I was shooting people in my apartment with a friend on the couch beside me. He kept telling me to reload, even though I had three shells left.
Boom. Boom. Boom. On the third headshot, someone kicked open the door. In the apartment, not the game. All the doors in the game were automatic. The door to the apartment was not. You had to move the handle. I paused the game.
I kept the game paused.
I put the controller down. My backseat shooter picked it up.
"Where?" I asked.
"Next door. Joe and Ellie's."
I ran across the street. I looked both ways.
Their house looked like a general store. Shutters on the windows, flat roof, the open red door, complete with a man on the porch smoking a corncob pip not full of small town tobacco.
I stopped at the door. Inside, I heard the sound of ham hitting ham to stoned cheering. Lots of bare feet on the floor, like a dance party with the simplest drum beats possible.
This was Fight Club filmed with extras from a food coop. Writhing lithe bodies and whipping white dreadlocks, bony fists jabbing, gloves on, a egalitarian commingling of all body shapes sizes and smells, a white bread coalition of sexes and genders and orientations all dead set on beating the everliving shit out of one another.
A tiny worm of glee built up inside me, crawled up my spine and wrapped itself around my brain so that it could express itself. I shouted incoherently, then added "who wants some?" and a heavy drink of Jack Daniels that someone offered up.
"Whiskey fight!" A gnarled girl said. She was taking earrings and nose studs out so she could get punched in the face.
I laced up the big red gloves. Had I not looked both ways crossing the street? Had I died and gone to Valhalla, picked up by some Valkyrie who had not yet grasped the modern concept of video games?
Glee again as the first hippie answered the challenge. I was by far the largest person in the room, and unlike most of the people there, I had been fights.
I gave a hard right hook to a sprawling confused kid who couldn't decide if we were breakdancing or fighting. The swelling would make his post-fight explanation of white-guy capoeira even less comprehensible. White dreadlocks guarded his face well, but each blow to those skinny washboard abs was a sickening thing to behold. I let a very big woman punch me a few times but didn't hit her back.
It was not as one sided as I make it out to be. The skinny fists landed plenty of blows, the little feet dodged more than landed, but every punch that hit me squeezed more whiskey and adrenaline into my bloodstream.
"Who else wants some?" I asked in a moment aggrandized by a heart pounding alcohol into an endorphin rush brain.
"Hell yeah I do." The new guy had tattoos of skulls and barbed wire instead of Chinese characters and birds. He didn't have any hair and he was the second biggest guy in the room. Someone gave him the gloves and the whiskey and I had a drink myself.
We stepped into the square made by a surrounding sea of stinking humanity and touched gloves.
"I should let you know." He said. This is almost always the point in a fight where the guy you're about to beat up warns you that he knows some obscure martial art that will not be of any help.
"I'm a marine drill instructor. I teach hand to hand combat to recruits." He said, as though his business was kicking ass, which, I suppose, it is. His first punch went through both my hands and connected weakly with my chin, and in the tenth of a second before he landed an immaculate uppercut to my solar plexus I thought "Well, that's not so bad." All I managed to say was "shit."
I'm not sure how the rest of the night went. I suppose I should have bowed out earlier, but repeated blows to the head mixed with Jack Daniels - my preferred brand of fightin' whiskey - gave me an unfortunate inability to feel the pain that I should have been feeling.
Perhaps other people fought him. Maybe they didn't. Maybe I didn't look as bad as I think it must have looked. I don't recall what happened, but the next day I looked like I'd been in a car wreck.
It wasn't my last Hippie Fight Night. Oh no. The next one was much worse.