21st of April 2003
Yesterday was my first night off since I started working here. It was also Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Usually that’s not a detail that I would make a point of mentioning. Under normal circumstances I would remain unaware of the fact, myself. But the reason for its relevance will soon become clear. During the afternoon Matt and I took the metro down to the Vatican to buy some bottles of Red Square from the international delicatessen. Quite a few bottles. I also picked up some Marmite. And some butterscotch Angel Delight.
By the time the sun starts its descent, Lee, Matt and I are already half cut in the hostel’s kitchen, having drunk all the bottles, so we head up the road to Julius Caesar to take advantage of our free allotment in there, and then when the barman refuses us any more we pinch a bottle each out of the fridge when his back’s turned and take them for the walk down to Finnegan’s, where we stay until closing time. When we leave, I’m up three pairs of socks, which I’ve bought off an African in the pub. I don’t need new socks.
There’s this club we know that we plan on finishing the night in. Lee and I discovered it during our Roman holiday last year, and the three of us also went there once while we were living in Ponte Galeria. It’s a bit of a poncey place, the crowd and the décor, but the music’s good and the girls are beautiful, and you know you’re not going to get any trouble.
We enter and find a different atmosphere than on our previous visits. A menacing group of visitors have picked the location for their get-together. A gang of about 20 shaven-headed Neo-Nazi thugs, all dressed in black and covered in swastika badges and the like, celebrating the birthdate of their Führer. They’ve even got a picture of the man with the ridiculous moustache on display in the middle of the table they’ve commandeered. Most of them are Italian, but there are some international guests among them, too. They’ve brought with them a dark cloud of negative energy, as everybody else in the place is on edge. The Nazis are just strutting around, snarling at men and trying to impose themselves on the women. People are afraid. I hate Nazis at the best of times, but tonight the feeling of loathing is all the stronger because this is my one night off and I was hoping to be able to enjoy it in a relaxed manner. Fucking wankers.
We’ve been in the place about 25 minutes and no one’s having a good time. Matt and I are standing at the packed bar, trying to get served, when Lee approaches, cupping his nose in his hands.
“What happened to you?”
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“Nah, come on. What happened?”
“Don’t do anything. I mean it. A Nazi just nutted me. But it’s fine. I don’t want any trouble. So don’t do anything!”
“Why’d he nut you? What did you do?”
“Nothing. I just wanted to get past him so I tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘Scusa’, he turned round, smiled in my face and then nutted me.”
“Are you sure you didn’t do anything to ask for it?”
“Yea I’m sure! He just nutted me for a laugh. Anyway, we came here to have a good time, so just leave it.”
“That one. Don’t do anything, Kris. I mean it.”
Matt says the same. “Do not do anything, Kris.”
They both know that I’m protective of my mates, particularly of Lee, whose face just always seems to rub someone up the wrong way when we’re out. They also know that I’m not quite the full ticket, and sometimes they need to protect me from myself. Fair enough.
It’s not long before we decide to call it a night. Lee’s just holding his nose the whole time. No one’s dancing. We’re not even talking any more. Our night’s been killed. The Nazi who nutted Lee, and a couple of his mates, force two black guys to leave early by following them around, staring at them threateningly and pushing them. After that, they switch their attention to us. Matt and Lee go to get their coats. I tell them I’ll meet them outside in a couple of minutes, I’m going to finish my drink and then go for a piss.
I watch him for about ten minutes, waiting for the moment when he’s not surrounded by all his mates. Lee and Matt will have started the walk back to the hostel by now. Finally my prey is stood with just two of his buddies next to him, both of whom are chatting up a couple of girls. The rest are either at the bar ordering more drinks or scattered around the place intimidating well-dressed Italians. The red mist descends. I am completely under its influence. I stride purposefully across the dancefloor towards him and knock him with my shoulder, just hard enough to get his attention. He turns round and immediately squares up to me. He’s got this weird, arrogant smirk plastered across his ugly mug; must be the same one he shot at Lee. His face is right up in mine, his chest is puffed out and he’s mad-dogging me. He wants some. I smile, wink and blow him a little kiss. I know what he’s going to do even before he does. Sure enough, he pulls back his head and throws it at me forcefully. But I’m quicker. I lean back to avoid it, and then as I spring forward, bang! Take that! With every bit of force I can channel from within, I swing my left arm and crack the whiskey glass I’ve been holding right into the bridge of his nose. The glass tumbler is so thick that it doesn’t even smash. It’s fucking solid. His face explodes like a watermelon hit with a hammer. Blood flies. And the world, for me, starts to play in slow motion. A woman’s scream pierces the atmosphere. She’s been splattered in claret. Overdosing on adrenalin, my senses narrow themselves down to the bare essentials, meaning that I’m now perceiving my immediate environment in much the same way Tom Hanks’ character does on the beach landing in Saving Private Ryan just after the explosion has temporarily blown out his eardrum. I am deaf to detail. It’s fight-or-flight time. Tunnel vision kicks in. At my feet kneels a broken Nazi. Player 2 is out of the game. In every language on the planet, the words bottle, glass, and brick are nouns. Only in British English are they verbs. Think about that for a second. Anyway, to that list I would like to add the word tumbler. Because this Nazi just got tumblered.
I look up. Nazis coming at me from the distance like a pack of horrific bloodthirsty monsters. Oh shit! I leg it for the door but the bouncers block my exit and push me back towards the skinheads, their mates, all of whom are foaming at the mouth as they close in on me. I may be about to die.
I’ve got to out-psycho the psychos. My eyes widen to their full potential as I lift the blood-splattered tumbler above my head and run at them head-on screaming “COME ON!” It has the desired effect and they all back off. I’m now in the centre of a large circle of space; no one wants to get close. I’m a lone lunatic who has just tumblered a Nazi’s face in front of all his Nazi mates, in the middle of a dancefloor. Even more disturbingly, I look like I’m having a proper good time.
I turn and bolt again for the door, with the tumbler still raised, ready to be cracked down onto any head that chooses to make itself an obstacle. Let’s test the balls on these bouncers. Fortunately, none of them fancy it, as they all step aside, leaving my path open.
I’m spat out into the narrow little street of Via d’Arocoeli, where a queue of Italians in their best clothes is waiting to be let in. One look at me and they’re having second thoughts. I turn and look at the glass door from which I’ve just self-ejected, to see the rabid mob of shaven heads bowling towards me on the other side. Just as they push the door open, I scream “COME ON THEN! LET’S FUCKING ‘AVE IT!” and sprint at them, laughing hysterically, with the glass still dripping Nazi blood. They all go backwards again and the bouncers on the inside step to block the door. I’ve bought myself a few precious seconds. I sprint down the alley to the main street, Via Corso Vitorrio Emanuelle II, full of drunken revellers eating ice-creams, and leg it across the busy road, causing brakes to screech and horns to honk furiously. I genuinely fear for my life at this point, but at the same time the adrenalin rush is fucking beautiful. Behind me the Nazis are in full pursuit, roaring in various languages as they come. They don’t stand a chance, though; I’m off. Forrest Gump wouldn’t get close.
From the other side of the road, I look back and see three of them separate from the pack and jump into a little banged up Fiat. They still won’t catch me. I take the side streets and back alleys, turning down each new one as I find it, snaking my route. I don’t slow down. I just keep sprinting. For a couple of minutes they’re on my heels, but soon their shouts start to fade, as I increase the gap between us. I’ve lost the group that was in pursuit on foot, but I’m worried about the Fiat. I’ve been on my toes for fifteen minutes, I’ve run right through the Trevi fountain and I find myself at the foot of the Spanish steps. I handle them like Rocky Balboa. I fucking fly to the top. I look down at my shirt. It’s not as white as it was earlier, splattered as I am in Nazi blood.
I set off running again, not stopping until I’m deep inside the huge unlit garden of Villa Borghese, where I rest under a tree. I know I’m safe here. You can’t see past the tip of your nose for darkness. No one’s coming in here.
I stay put for about 25 minutes, convinced the Nazis are all over the city hunting me. It’s 3:30am. I call the hostel, hoping Matt and Lee are there and can come and give me a bit of back-up. Amin answers.
“Kris, where are you?”
“In the park. Are Matt and Lee there?”
“Yes, they’re here. What’s happened?”
“Nothing too serious. Put one of them on the phone, please.”
“They’re in the kitchen, wait a minute.”
I hear their voices coming closer to reception. I think I hear Matt say, ‘He’s a fucking wanker.’
“Amin, did Matt just call me a fucking wanker?”
Matt comes on the line and says, “You’re a fucking wanker.”
“Matt? Listen, after you left I got into a bit of bother with the Nazis. I think they’re looking for me now. Can you come and meet me in Villa Borghese?”
“You’re a fucking wanker, Kris. When you get back here, I’m going to knock you out. I’m not joking. I am going to knock you the fuck out.”
Then he hangs up on me.
I call back. Amin answers, then Lee comes on the line and, pissing himself laughing, tells me that Matt’s had the shit kicked out of him by Nazis. Badly. He blames me.
“…and he’s lost one of his shoes.”
“He only bought them today.”
“Yea I know!”
We’re both pissing ourselves laughing now. In the background I hear Matt saying that we’ll see how funny it is after he’s done the same to me. This is not a good situation.
“So can you come and meet me in Villa Borghese?”
“Nah, you’ll be alright. I’m making some toast and a cup of tea. And Matt hates you. See you in a bit.”
The line goes dead.
A few minutes later I’ve scaled a high wall and I’m out on the street, but with no idea where I am. I’ve lost my bearings; nothing looks familiar. I walk quietly and slowly in the shadows, avoiding the spotlights masquerading as lampposts, hoping to stumble upon something I recognise. After a couple of minutes I come across a human. Standing alone on the corner up ahead, a young West African lady of the night, working her patch. As I get to within about five metres of her, I step out of the shadows to announce my presence, calling out to her as I approach, “Scusa, scusa.” I’m just going to ask her where I am. She doesn’t appear overly comfortable with my company, though. All the while I’m walking towards her, she’s walking backwards, nervously, quickly. Addressing her unease, I produce a friendly little laugh and tell her I’m just a bit lost, and ask if she could point me in the direction of Termini Station. But then I get a bit closer to her and she just freaks out; loses her shit completely and starts shouting the neighbourhood down whilst reeling backwards in her high heels trying to get away from me. She’s screaming for help, for fuck’s sake! We’re on a residential street. Bedroom lights start turning on up in the windows. She’s hysterical. Won’t stop screaming. I don’t need this. Shut up, you’re going to get me in trouble! Suddenly I stop walking towards her and look down at myself. I’m still holding the bloodied whiskey glass in my left hand. My shirt’s covered in blood. I’ve appeared out of the shadows almost right on top of her and proceeded to stalk her like a lion over an injured gazelle. Of course she’s petrified. I look like a prostitute slayer.
Now that I’ve identified the cause of our little misunderstanding, I laugh again, then smile, then kneel down to put the glass on the pavement. I stand up and start walking slowly towards her but with my arms up to show that I’m not armed. I just want to know how to get home. But then she shows me that she is armed. She pulls out a pepper spray, before going into screaming overdrive. More lights go on. I take a few steps back, pick the whiskey glass up off the floor, turn around and sprint, possibly quicker than I did when escaping from the club, the whole time to the accompanying wails of a hysterical lady, who wakes half the Eternal City.
It takes me another 45 minutes to locate the hostel. Finally I’m safe. I run up the stairs. Stood in reception are Amin, Lee and a hideous Elephant Man creature almost unrecognisable as a human. It’s Matt. His head looks like a piece of rusty metal found under a pier, covered in barnacles. His shirt’s been ripped to shreds. He’s been brutalised. It looks like the Nazis have tried to kick him to death. His face is so swollen and lumpy he can hardly see out of his eyes. The top of his head feels like a cauliflower. Poor guy. Luckily for me, he’s had time to calm down and no longer wants to deck me. Lee’s still laughing, but now that I’m seeing Matt in the flesh, it’s not funny. And then he says in a sad voice, “I lost a shoe,” and instantly it’s hilarious again.
Matt then tells me that I’m going to walk back to the club with him right now to help him find his missing shoe. My protests are answered with a threat of severe violence. I know he means it. So, out the door we go, into the dawn.
Matt didn’t leave the club with Lee. He went to get his coat and then for a piss. When he came out of the toilet, he found chaos, as the Nazis were all kicking-off, trying to get at someone outside the door. Matt instantly knew I’d done something stupid, so tried to slip out without being noticed. Someone outside recognised him. His explanation that he had nothing to do with me and just wanted to go home almost got him out of trouble. One of the Nazis was telling him to get the fuck out of there. But then some of the ones that had been chasing me up the street returned dejected in failure. They weren’t going to let him go. The whole time this was going on, the Nazi whose features I’d rearranged was sat in a heap on the concrete floor, not knowing what planet he was on. Matt tells me the front of his face looked like a volcano mid-eruption. Matt was punched and thrown to the ground. The Nazis all piled in. Matt covered up as best he could and took a severe kicking. It didn’t stop until the Nazis had tired themselves out and got bored. Then he staggered home.
I feel bad for Matt. I thought that he was long gone from the club before I did what I did, and that neither he nor Lee would be at any risk. But there’s no denying the fact that I lost the plot, went into that dark place in my psyche, and my actions ended up causing him some serious shit.
Incredibly his brand new shoe is sitting in the kerb outside the club. I pick it up and hand it to him, and we make our way back to the hostel to get some sleep. It’s coming up for 7 in the morning.
If you’ve enjoyed this story or you just enjoy my writing in general, then there are four things you might like to do.
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4) Give the Facebook page a like. I’ll be announcing quite soon news of the next book.
Also, know that this story took place 14 years ago when I was still in my late teens. I have long since lost that violent reactionary nature. I’m not glorifying violence, I know that I did wrong, I’m just telling the story as it happened. I’m in my 30s now and you couldn’t wish to meet a more chilled out dude.