Sean Joseph Patrick Carney

"HATE CRIME" is a nonfiction essay that will be published in Tri-County Pie Eat Quarterly issue number two in May of 2012. 

Before my hairline started receding, I used to be able to grow a pretty gnarly poof of curls on top of my head. When I grew it out, it became a startling, tangled mess that baited trim for days. Not really. But it was pretty ridiculous looking. When I wore my glasses, I looked like a young Malcolm Gladwell. In 2003, this was a very “now” look to have. At the Drive-In had recently called it quits, which meant that a large, curly mop atop one’s head was a style that was now open to claim as one’s own. I am well aware that Omar and Cedric from ATDI continued public visibility through the Mars Volta project, but they both quit doing heroine around that time and seemed less edgy by and large. They are not germane to this story. I’m sorry.

For a period of time, I was attending a large amount of raves in Phoenix, AZ. This was directly related to dating someone who was obsessed with taking ecstasy. I am perfectly comfortable blaming her for any Parkinson’s-related ailment that I face in the future because of trying to keep up with her candy-flipping lifestyle. One weekend, we took a bunch of ecstasy and went to see Bad Boy Bill perform in some warehouse or something in downtown Phoenix. The evening was enjoyable for the most part, as I was fucked out of my face on E and really feeling the vibes -- as well as the butts of numerous strangers screedling about on the dance floor.

At one point, Mike Fucking Tyson appeared out of nowhere and was dancing so hard it made me believe in God for five minutes. He was dipping and grooving, looking suspiciously like Elaine from Seinfeld. In a drug-fueled trance, I watched him saunter over like a cartoon character and start grinding my then-girlfriend super hard. My reaction to this was really complex. I mean, I was super bummed he was grinding my girlfriend, but then I was also super amped that Mike Tyson was grinding my girlfriend. In landscape photography, I believe this is called “the sublime.” Standing there, I watched my girlfriend try to engage him in conversation and she asked him how his night was going.

“I’m having a good time!” he squealed back over the loud dance music. He really does sound like a baby if that baby could talk and was more or less totally flamboyant.

We left the rave at some point and drove in her Jeep Wrangler back to Tempe where we both lived. I don’t condone driving on ecstasy, but this is also America so I’m not going to tell you how the fuck you should get home. We pulled into the parking lot of her building at like 3:00am. The apartment complex was huge, filled with ASU students, and the parking wrapped around the entire property, meaning that we had to make about three turns once inside the complex just to get to her place. Before making the first of these turns, we heard a voice scream at us, “You almost hit my fucking dog!”

She slammed on the brakes, and this white fucking trash tweaker comes running up to us in grey sweatpants, a wife beater, and, oh, I don’t know, let’s say Keds. He was panting and sweating, and I immediately took visual inventory of a striking collection of poorly rendered tattoos adorning his person. One in particular jumped out at me, a large “WP” in a blackletter style across his goddamned throat. It should be noted, dear reader, that this stood for “White Power.” Now, I am white, so I was like, at least he thinks we’re on the same team. I asked him from the passenger seat what he was doing with his dog in the parking lot at 3:00am and he screamed something back about playing frisbee and who the fuck was I to have an opinion on when he and his dog played frisbee.

It appeared that we weren’t going to get anywhere with this, so I said, “Whatever, dude.” My girlfriend hit the gas and we cruised around the turn and down to her place. As she parked the car, I opened my door and then leaned into the front seat to grab my backpack, suddenly hearing sneakers pounding on pavement behind me violently with increasing audibility. Spinning around, I caught a fist to my face and my vision literally exploded with little stars. For a moment, I was so stunned that I just kind of fell back against the Jeep and didn’t feel any pain. But the pain came immediately after, and in the same instant, my nose began gushing blood, as did a large laceration above my right eye. My shirt, a Jack Nicklaus golf shirt in mint green with white stripes and a tiny little bear embroidered on it, quickly turned crimson. It was my favorite shirt.

The passage of time was a bit hard to discern at this point, but I do know that my girlfriend came running around the corner of the car screaming, “Leave him alone!” God, did I feel like a pussy. I kind of wandered towards him thinking that I would reason with him, but he was super juiced on a bit of the ultraviolence (sans rape) and just cocked me in the face again. This would be the punch, in my estimate, that broke my nose severely. A bit more knocked around by this hit, I immediately fell to the ground and kind of rolled around on the pavement.

“Stay down, kike!” he screamed at me pushing me into the asphalt with his foot. At the time, I had no idea what a “kike” was. I’d grown up in Northern Michigan and only recently relocated to Phoenix, and neither of those places, to my knowledge, boasts a large Jewish population. While the football players at my high school relished in calling the skateboarders “Jew fags,” I had not heard this specific variation on the anti-Semitic epithet. Naturally, I was terribly confused. Further, I’m entirely fucking Irish.

I stood up, despite his sincere recommendation that I refrain from doing so, and tried to explain to him that I wasn’t a kike -- I was a pacifist! He had me confused with someone else! He looked at me oddly, assessing the damage that he had done to my face and my broken glasses on the ground.

“Just fucking watch your mouth,” he said to me. My girlfriend was begging me to just come up to the apartment with her, but I’d never really had the shit kicked out of me before and it felt really weird to just leave at this point. Maybe I was looking for closure?

“Watch my mouth?” I replied. I coupled this sassy retort with the universal hand gesture for jacking off a really large and penis in exaggerated slow motion. He was not amused. I earned myself a right and then left jab to my face which knocked me to the ground again. The area of the asphalt where I kept falling was a handicap accessible parking space, so my blood was spilling all over the blue logo and really making quite the Jackson Pollock. Artists just see the world differently, you know? Jesus Christ.

Eventually, after a couple more punches to the face while I was on the ground, and then one real whammy of a slug to my tummy when I tried to get up again, I was down for the count. The tweaker appeared satisfied with his work, and told my girlfriend that if I had watched my mouth, this wouldn’t have happened. I imagine this is true, but it still sounded pretty dickish to me. A balcony up above us filled with frat boys who were partying and they yelled down, “Yo, you need help?” The tweaker turned and bolted. I hope that he remembered to get his dog from wherever it was that he probably tied him up.

We hobbled up the steps to her apartment and I got into the shower with all of my clothes on. If you’ve ever washed out a bloody nose in the shower, it looks pretty fucking cool as it swirls around the tub. And I had a really, really bloody nose, and a gash above my eye that couldn’t stop pumping, so I was really putting on a show for myself all around my feet. My girlfriend was trying to talk to me, but I was really out of it and it was then that I realized that I had just gotten the shit kicked out of me while rolling on a fuckton of ecstasy. This likely explained my behavior in constantly trying to get up and “talk it out.” I was looking for a connection.

She informed me that my nose was really crooked, and without having any idea what I was doing, I did what I’d seen in movies and used my fingers to crack it back into place. This is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Or, at least it was until I started crying because it hurt so bad. Assuming that the cut above my eye was from my glasses being busted, I hadn’t given it much thought until after I got out of the shower. It was fucking enormous. My girlfriend said something like, “I was so scared when I saw his knife.”

“He had a fucking knife???” I yelled back.

“Yeah, he was holding it with the blade sticking out of the bottom of his fist when he was punching you. That’s why your face is all cut up!”

What. The. Fuck.

I do have a pretty cool scar as a result, and my nostrils have since that day been two completely different sizes. For a solid month, I was insanely angry. Everybody at my college, whether I knew them or not, asked me what had happened to my face, causing me to recount the story several times daily which only exacerbated my anger. At this point, it’s been nearly ten years since the incident so I’m not really upset by it at all. It’s really strange to consider that I was the victim of a hate crime while not even being the targeted group, although I honestly don’t know how Neo-Nazis feel about the Irish -- they’re probably not too fond of us either.