Don’t our hearts just melt at a show of bravery? An indomitable spirit that doesn’t weaken under the threat of danger, even death. Real he-men. Spidermen and Supermen and Batmen, but without the silly costumes. That’s how I fell in love with my husband. Second hubby, actually, now ex. But still.
Okay, so my ex isn’t exactly your typical he-man. Truth be told, he was already grey-haired when I first met him, as well as skinny and bony and craggy-faced and a bit long in the tooth. It was most definitely not love at first sight. But the love sure as hell snapped into action, late one night in a smoky cellar bar tucked deep within the bowels of historic Krakow, when he recounted a story from his past that left me star-struck and weak-kneed. Want to hear it? I’ll tell you anyway.
One balmy summer evening long ago, in the pretty Regency town of Leamington Spa in England’s green and pleasant land, my ex and his mates were having a few harmless drinks. It was in one of these quaint, Olde England types of pubs, know the kind I mean? Black and white timber frontage, low beams inside, open fireplace, brass plates and other ancient knick-knacks on the walls, etc. etc. As it happened, a nice Indian family were sitting at a neighbouring table, also having a few harmless drinks as they exchanged innocent pleasantries and laughed not too loudly.
And then, lo and behold, a gaggle of long-legged skinheads barged into the pub, headed straight for the bar, purchased an impressive number of pints, and swaggered over to another nearby table, their beers sloshing as they deposited them on their respective beer mats. Perhaps bored with each other’s already-intoxicated company, they started playing with aforementioned beer mats. Breaking them into little pieces. Spitting on them. Rolling them into pellets. And then, one by one, aiming and firing at the smiling Indian family.
Granted, such a dastardly deed did not involve unspeakable violence or pints of spilled blood, but nonetheless, the Indian family’s smiles gradually evaporated. Other customers in the dimly-lit room started to get fidgety, uncomfortable, casting uneasy glances at each other. Was it time to leave? Make a discreet exit, with the hope that it would not be construed as cowardly?
My ex had other ideas. He was not leaving. Oh, no, most definitely not! He was not going anywhere. It was his pub. His local. His friends, his people, his culture. He was NOT going to make room for the enemy to muscle their way in and take over people’s lives.
So what did he do? What was his masterplan? Want to hear it?
With a cool, totally unfazed grin, my ex picked up his own beer mat, crumbled it into small pieces, spat on each one, aimed, and fired. At the seven-foot tall skinheads. The entire army of them. One by one, zapping them right in the centre of their ugly foreheads. Their shock was of such magnitude, they didn’t even have time to get out their machine guns. However, within seconds their top General came to his senses, stood up, practically knocking over the table in the process, and yelled a long string of obscenities at the solitary enemy sniper, whose grin had now spread from ear to ear. The general waved his fists in fury. The others followed suit, all standing to attention, My ex’s mates urgently whispered at their sniper friend to stop firing at the enemy for Christ’s sake; that it was time to leave.
Had it not been for the swift action of the barman, who in the meantime had secretly phoned the local police station, the evening might have ended in fatalities.
But it didn’t. In the midst of all that swaggering and swearing and drunkenly trying to storm my ex’s table, sirens wailed from within the depths of the dark night. Moments later, in stormed the police, out retreated the enemy, and peace was duly restored.
As you can see, it was a happy ending for my skinny hero, who won the day and the heart of a gooey-eyed woman, several years down the road, when she listened, awe-struck, to his fascinating tale. It was at that moment she discovered that heroism is what life and love is all about. Well, it is, isn’t it?
So whether it’s in your own back yard, or in the vast sovereignty of somewhere like Ukraine, I say long live heroes, long live love, and long live the courage to fight for what is right.