White Night

October 20, 2009
The night had been starting to wind down. Parting on the beach well past midnight had taken its nasty toll on most of my friends and fellow volunteer participants, leading them to desire a cozy bed before the pounding headache that was to follow. Being the token sober partier (as my ethical sense and allergies to wheat and gluten have always lead me to be), I made quite the impression in the sand as I prepared to sit and wait for the last two members of our group to reappear. By my side, one of my slowly sobering guy friends settled himself down to wait out the balmy night with me. No sooner than two seconds later, I spotted one of our long-lost mates.

Except something was not quite right.

Meier had his hands up, backing away from a group of about five French youths all with at least two decades of life experience. Our scrawny friend, however, was not scared as a proper person would be. His eyes were narrowed in anger and he was throwing French curses back at the group. That is precisely when I saw the one in front reach out and slap Meier across the face. Of course, he was French. Out of obvious naivety on my part and damnable automatic reflexes, I jumped up to run between them. Yes me, the 5’2ft, 95 pound American girl was going to take on a gang of inebriated French hooligans. Luckily, my friend Shaahat who did not notice any of this despite being at my side had sprung up also, taking in the danger of the situation in an instant. Again fortunately, he was the biggest one there despite his much made fun of handicap of
being the youngest, a mere 17 years old. I quickly placed my body in front of our very angry not to mention drunk friend’s position as none of those boys, I was sure, would hit a girl (or at least that is what I silently implored of any deity that would listen) while Shaahat dealt with the group.

I do not quite know what words were exchanged that night or what my young friend said to get the French boys to go back to their own beach activities, half because all the words were either in rapid-fire French or Hebrew and half simply because I was trying my hardest just to get Meier to stand still and just shut-up. Shaahat did it, though, simultaneously dragging Meier back to our beach chairs for a “chill-ax” session.

Meier fought back, taking desperate swings at Shaahat’s face before Shaahat was able to do what I had only seen accomplished in movies, pinning our friend’s arms to his side in a monsterous bear hug while talking as calmly to him as addressing a child.

My small Swiss-French friend had a drunken rage most hard-core alcoholics have to work up to, so keeping him from running straight back into the thicket of drunken pricks he had been tangling with was no small feat. I personally shut my mouth rather quickly having no experience, let alone expertise in this area of handling. On the other hand, Shaahat shined, ironic in such a grimy situation. He talked at least an hour straight simply trying to calm Meier down and keep him from running off rabid and intoxicated on his own. At one point he made a break for it but was easily caught. Shaahat never faltered, “I’m not leaving you alone in a foreign city like this. Hey look you want to be alone, I understand that but still I’m not leaving you like this.”

Again our friend flew into a rage, yelling and somehow jumping the seven foot wall up to the boardwalk. Barefoot and leaping over broken beer bottles and grimy cigarette butts, we ran after him. Shaahat was going to keep his promise no matter what, “Look, man, I want to see you again and the only way I can be sure of that is that I’m with you. Look you want to be alone? You want to walk? Walk! Go! You won’t even know I’m there but I’m gonna keep you in my eyesight always.”

I do not think I have ever seen someone sober up or grow up quite like that in front of my eyes. Here were two kids, one screaming, yelling, running wild, and threatening the other while his friend refused to leave such abuse for a nice, warm hotel bed, to make sure his vodka soaked comrade was going to make it back to our hotel that night. Later on when in the wee hours of the next morning I sat contemplating this, I realized that had known each other less than three weeks. I have had longer relationships with houseplants with a lot less loyalty, yet this kid was not going to give up on a friend.

After a second “calming” of the Swiss beast, Meier took off again, this time slightly more sober, less hostile toward others, and defiantly vengeful towards us, into the ocean. We watched for a while, sure he was not to drown and eventually left him on a more peaceful part of the beach away from the booze to splash through the last remenents of the screwdriver shots that were finally vacating his body.

Forty-five minutes later in our hotel room, we got a knock on the door queuing a very drenched, pretty sober, and mostly seething Meier who just wanted to sleep and therefore kicked us off his bed.

Shaahat’s eyes were so blood-shot, and he struggled through fatigue just to stand which is what out two hours of keeping an inebriated friend alive and in one piece will do it to you.

I thought I knew this guy. After 3 weeks, he was to me the sarcastic guy who had the giggle of a third grade girl. Now, well, as I hugged him and told him he was more than a good guy, he was an amazing person, for I think we all like to believe that inside us is that self that will not cut and run. What I find is that most people are very good people, but still they lack that inner superior self. Shaahat had it.

To meet people like that, have people in your life like that, it creates that little bit of awe in my fellow man that makes me smile when I think of what things people are actually capable of. What can I say? I am a bit of a cynic. Sometimes I need a drunken fight on the beach and a night of chasing a wild Swiss boy with a friend to remind me as much.

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