While Wanush could easily be describing the young me, my aversion to being bullied often overtook my instinct for self-preservation, and I refused to leave the floor. While my smarter friend moved toward the back wall of the Gothic, I stood just on the edge of the circle of neo-Nazis, watching the band and pretending not to notice the simmering hate breathing in my face.
At some point, I lowered my eyes to scan the crowd in front of me. My eyes landed on a pretty, brunette girl, about my age, wearing a Knights of the KKK hat. Our eyes locked for a second, but I looked away, not wanting to engage with someone whose ideology squared up so directly against my own genetics. She continued to march toward me in the circle and, as she was stomping by, landed a forceful, impressive upper cut directly in my abdomen.
I doubled over in pain briefly, then stood back up for a beating. But she was gone. She didn’t stick around to kick my ass. No one else jumped in. She just kept goose-stepping, as if she’d simply paused to extinguish her cigarette or throw away a candy wrapper.
At that moment, I realized that the theater had become a powder keg. That, at any moment, the smart-assed, scrawny guys on stage and the smart-assed, scrawny guys in the audience could be quickly pummeled by smoldering, single-minded skinheads.
I walked as slowly as fear allowed toward the back of the theater, tapped my friend on the shoulder and led him out the doors and onto Broadway. We hopped in his Suzuki Samurai and made the long, quiet drive home to Berthoud.