February 2023

The Punch

Altenir Silva

He was wearing white trousers and a blue T-shirt with yellow lettering that read "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu." He was completely bald; his ears were damaged, probably because of his training in this type of martial art. He was a very strong man. Slowly, he approached. I thought about punching his face full of scars. But I knew I'd be dead if I attacked him. I could never have taken down that guy. Never. My 154-pound body would collapse like rotten fruit from the tree. I didn't have any chance against that man. Could I have gotten away from there? I think not. It would destroy my prominence. My reputation was everything that remained from my past.

I was born on February 28, 1983, at the same hour that most people were watching "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen," the last episode of M*A*S*H on CBS. Among the 125 million viewers, they have summoned an obstetrician to begin my mother's labor. He probably cursed me while I was being born because he was losing the final days of the Korean War at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

My childhood was really easy in Greenwich Village. We lived in a townhouse where Eugene O'Neill had previously lived, but I've never confirmed this. Daddy worked as a journalist at The New York Times, and mom was a short story writer who wrote for The New Yorker. Someone in Hollywood really wanted to produce one of her stories, but it never materialized. My sister - who is younger than me - and I had a good life. I grew up playing ball with my friends at Washington Square. I was unaware that the architect Stanford White designed that Arch, and that many characters from the imagination of Henry James went by that place, not to mention the Bohemian ghost sounds that never left there, such as jazz, blues, folk rock, comedian voices, and all the people who cried for freedom.

Once a wonderful thing happened at Washington Square. I was five years old and got to talk to a guy. He was very interesting and his look was very sad while his lips always seemed to smile. That guy was drawing a crown on old cardboard. After he finished the drawing, he gave it to me. I kept the drawing until I was 13 years old, then when we left Village for Brooklyn, I lost it. Yeah. I lost a Basquiat.

As a teenager living in Brooklyn, I got to experience all the emotions, hopes, delusions, and everything else that place offers to us. Then, I went to college, and, in the same Holden Caulfield way, I came back to visit my family, not in Manhattan but in Williamsburg.

After my graduation, I worked on Wall Street as an auditor. I did really well. I loved inspecting statements and finding financial faults in companies. Then, a few years later, working there, I saved a lot of money and decided that I would change my life. I went to Mexico. It happened because I had read "A Drinking Life" by Pete Hamill. He went there to study art, while I went there to meet a Mexican girl. I wanted to meet a girl who could not speak anything in English. It sounds a little weird, but everyone has their oddities.

Dolores was the one girl that I had an affair with. But after a few drinks at Zinco Jazz Club, in Mexico City, I found out that she could speak perfect English after all. This didn't affect me because she was so beautiful. We were together for almost a year. We broke up when she said that we never got to get the next step, I wasn't part of her dream. This hurt my heart a lot, but life needs to go on. At that time, my money was running out, and I had to go back home.

I came back to New York and went to live in Queens, actually in Corona, near Citi Field, but as a Yankee fan, it was strange to see Mets fans everywhere on game days. My parents were living in Long Island, and my sister was studying cinema at the University of Southern California. I tried to get a job in Wall Street again, but all the doors were closed. Then, I decided to become a Youtuber, and started to make political videos.

From home, I made videos against the American far-right. I quickly gained thousands of subscribers. My channel was doing very well until I met, on the street, a group of extremist guys called the Proud Boys. One of them recognized me. The stronger one approached and said: "You're a great son of a bitch". I thought about punching his face full of scars. But I knew I'd be dead if I punched him. Suddenly, another member of the gang started filming the showdown. If I run, my influence will be destroyed; if I stay, the strong man will beat me to death.

I stayed there, waiting for my destiny. The strong man punched my chin violently. I fell back. Another gang member kicked my hip, while another pushed my face against the ground. While I spilled blood all over the place, I hopelessly tried not to be unconscious, and I desperately began to breathe deeply, my hands tingling, and all I could hear were those fascists' cathartic cries as if they were conquering the world. One of them started dragging me by my feet; I couldn't lift my face anymore, which was trailing along the ground, creating a trail of blood.

My beating has received 8M views on YouTube, and I got 750K new subscribers on my channel. For many watchers, I was just a guy being beaten, but for me and many people, it was a civil resistance; as long as there is antisemitism, racism, fascism, nazism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and white nationalist movements, the voices for freedom will never stop, whether in pain or a lot of pain.


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Altenir Silva is a Brazilian playwright and screenwriter working in mass media and communications, including Cinema, Theater, Television and the Web. His texts and scripts - both fiction and reality-based - have been presented , produced and performed in the US, the UK, and Brazil.
For more of his writings in Scene4, check the Archives.

©2023 Altenir Silva
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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