I Want You to Hit Me As Hard As You Can
I don’t know how to tell this story without sounding like a hipster-Palahniuk-wannabe, so I’m just going to give it to you straight. What I really said was something like this: “Everything that has ever bothered you, everyone that has ever made you angry, all the frustration you have inside of you—I want you to channel all of that and hit me with it.”
But let me back up…
A few years ago I took a personal sabbatical from Los Angeles to Washington State and back down to the Mexican border. I considered it to be exploration of experience, eager to say “yes” to every opportunity that came my way. In hindsight I was really feeding a part of myself that was urging me to quit my career and move out of Los Angeles (I think I was trying to keep these urges at bay; six months later I had fulfilled both).
Near the end of my journey I found myself staying in a dorm room at Lucky D’s Hostel near the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. A bohemian hitching post, Lucky D’s is plastered with trippy Pink Floyd and Zeppelin paintings and words of wisdom scribbled in crayon from world-traveling tenants across the lodging doors. After an evening wandering through the bass-thumped streets of the Gaslamp, I came back to Lucky’s where I came across a merry band of gentlemen smoking various brands of cigarettes and I lit up my tobacco pipe to toss about the evening’s remembrances.
I began chatting with one gentleman who was the spitting image of Jack Black—both in looks and demeanor. For the purposes of this story, I’ll refer to him as Mr. Black. We got on to talking in the jovial way strangers do sometimes with lots of laughs, affirmations; there was a lot of saying “yes!” and “exactly!” At some point we overheard a fruckus of some kind, some yelling between two people a block down the street. This got us onto a discussion of arguments and fights and we came to discover that neither one of us had ever been in a physical fight.
Mr. Black confided in me that deep down he had this unexplainable urge to hit someone. Yet he wasn’t a violent person and had never met anyone he truly wanted to hit so this urge had gone unfulfilled. I couldn’t say I shared the urge, I am not the kind of person that saves anger for a rainy day. Yet I couldn’t help but agree that there was gnawing curiosity as to what it would feel like to actually do it—to hit someone.
Do most people have this curiosity? Is it testosterone thing? Perhaps this is a byproduct of some culturally ingrained, masochistic tendency or maybe men are just naturally trained to be aggressive.
Either way, Palahnik struck the nail on the head when he posed the question through Tyler Durden: “How much can you truly know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”
And then without batting an eye I said: “You know, you could hit me if you really want.”
We all looked at each other, not sure exactly how one responds to such an offer and yet there it was hanging in the air like a dirty secret freshly sprung from its trap. There was no rational thought behind this, it was pure gut spontaneity. I can’t say I was even cognizant of what I was saying.
It was like that scene in Ghostbusters when Ray imagines the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man: “It just popped in there.”
After some contemplation, he said he wanted to hit me, if I was really okay with it, and only on the condition that I hit him back. I’d never punched anyone either. We talked each other up teasing out whether or not we were actually seriously considering this and both came to the conclusion that we were. We went around back to the parking lot. By now a crowd had gathered with blood lust in their eyes eagerly awaiting to see what would happen. Our jackets and personal belongings were removed and placed in a little pile out of the way.
It was time. Put up or shut up. I can not honestly say whether I felt anxious or excited—surely there must be some word for a combination of the two.
We shook hands. We hugged. It was one of the most heart-felt hugs I have ever given a man in my life. I looked him in the eye and told him “you have to swear to me, SWEAR TO ME, that when you do this, you give me EVERYTHING you’ve got. You will probably never get this opportunity again so when you hit me, I want you to think about everyone that’s ever hurt you, everyone that’s ever made you angry, every little thing that is bothering you in this world and I want you to put ALL of it into this one punch. Because when I hit you that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Basically telling him “I want you to hit me as hard as you can” but in all seriousness the movie, the book, all the pop culture around Fight Club never once crossed my mind until much, much later.
We hugged again and I told him to go first.
“WAIT!” Our eyes locked and I took a deep breath. “Okay, go!”
He knocked me completely off my feet and I was laughing before I even hit the ground. I laughed like a damn lunatic spitting out pieces of teeth as I did.
“That was amazing!” I screamed.
I can’t imagine the sight—I literally couldn’t stop laughing, it was such a life experience! My body had never felt so awake—adrenaline was flooding through my veins, my senses were on fire!
While I’m laughing, I know he’s getting cold feet. He says “Dude, you gotta get up and hit me, like, now.”
I leapt immediately to my feet and WHAM! He stumbled back, clutching his face, clinging to every breath he could take. “Dude, are you okay?” I ask.
“Yeah, I’m awesome.” He looked at me with a smile. And just then “WOOO WOOO WOOO!” The cops come blazing into the parking lot blaring into their PA for us to get on the ground immediately!
Everyone dispersed in the usual authority-avoidance way. And there we were, two average guys, arm in arm, completely sober (yes, really), sitting indian-style in the middle of a parking lot trying to explain to the cops that YES we did hit each other and that it was really a very tender moment for us. They looked at us like we were 5-year-olds.
As serious as we were trying to be, little chuckles kept escaping through our mouths like and the smiles were impossible to keep at bay. We hadn’t broken any laws, we hadn’t taken any drugs or alcohol, we knew we were scott-free. After the usual interrogation, “give me your ID, where are you from? where are you going? you know this was dumb?” they tell me I can go.
Mr. Black has to stay. I began to protest but they beamed their flashlights into my face, and very seriously shouted at me to walk away immediately.
I was not going to argue. That was the last I saw of Mr. Black. The next morning, jaw killing me, I combed the town for a milk shake and realized during the commotion I had lost my precious pipe. This sad loss brought me to the brink of regret when as fate would have it my pipe found me. Apparently I’d given it to a German before the fight. He told me he ran into Mr. Black later that night—Michael, apparently, was his real name—and that he wanted me to know I had special real estate in his heart.
“‘Real estate in his heart,’ that’s exactly what he said,” the German told me. “Does this make sense to you?”
Yes it did.
Because you see, he and I shared experience that no one can ever take back. A bond of trust had been formed between two strangers willing to go the distance in the name of experience. That to me was well worth the weeks of pain and agony that followed. I don’t condone violence, but I do condone life in whatever form it comes to you.
Cheers to you Michael, wherever you are.