A series of personal accounts by unreliable narrators
SWORN TESTIMONY OF A NON-EYE WITNESS
Did I see it happened? Well, no, but if you ask me if I know what happened, my answer will be a simple one: yes.
The carnage with which I was greeted upon my arrival to Leidseplein, was not what I had come to expect at five o’ clock on a Saturday morning in Amsterdam. Of course, there is often police presence in the square at this time of night, but they always seem to act as more of a deterrent than anything else; just in case something might kick off. I myself have never witnessed anything heavy go down here in my five years in this city. I don’t know, I would expect that their presence is probably due to previous experiences rather than based on any proclamation of what was to come.
Of course, my testimony is based solely on the words of others, as you already know, but that should not discredit it as irrelevant. I mean, I had to find my information from someone who saw it happen, no?
What? Oh, like I told you when you asked me the first time, I was riding home from work when I ran into all of these people crowding around the bike path. And to tell you the truth, I was pretty damn annoyed with it all. It was raining, cold, and I just wanted to get home and curl up next to my wife. Sorry? What was that? Where do I work? Well, I already told you that as well, but I suppose if you already have me repeating myself, what is the harm in doing it again? Yes, I know, and I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be short with you, it’s just been a long night, that’s all. I work at a local nightspot just off Leidseplein: the Paradiso, you may have heard of it?
Anyway, like I was saying, I was pretty pissed off seeing all these assholes clogging up the bike path, thinking they were just standing around like spare parts soaking up the night air. Of course, that was the furthest thing from the truth. But it was five in the morning, I’d had a very long day, evening and night, and if I can shoot straight with you here, the thought of my wife lying in our bed at home was all I could think of, and the last thing I expected was any sort of delay. It was when I saw the body, err… I mean, the man lying on the ground like he was, the paramedics and police trying to control the chaos that was ensuing around them; it was then that I knew it wasn’t just a bunch of drunken yahoos crowding the bike path waiting for a cab.
What I had heard from the lady next to me was that the man on the ground had entered into quite the argument with a taxi driver over the fare. The argument then escalated into a shoving match of sorts, cabbie then punched the man in the face, man dropped to the ground, smacking his head off the concrete en route, and I guess the rest of the story tells itself.
I knew something had seriously gone wrong when I saw the look of desperation in the eye of one of the paramedics as they scrambled around trying to revive the guy. They were trying for what seemed like fifteen minutes. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. He must have been breathing, I reckon, otherwise why would they try for so long? It looked pretty bad, anyway. I had a strong feeling that it would only be a matter of seconds before the white sheet was brought out. This may sound morbid, and just a little sadistic, but I was getting quite excited; anxious maybe. I didn’t want the man to die, obviously, but I felt as though he was going to. I was on the verge of seeing my first dead body. Even the thought of it now is a little mind blowing.
Anyway, it was all pretty awful, it really was. I guess that just goes to show you that, in this day and age, you can’t even speak your piece of mind without getting punched, stabbed or shot. I’m a firm believer in keeping yourself to yourself, that way nothing can happen to you.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE VICTIM TOLD THROUGH A TELEVISION PSYCHIC
Let me start from the beginning. It was a Friday night like any other. I was out with some friends of mine having a good time like we always do when we go out together. We hit the usual spots: Weber, Paladium, Sugar Factory. By the time we rocked up to the taxi rank, yes, we were pretty drunk, but how was I to know it would all turn out like this? I mean, sure, I’ve had my fare share of arguments with taxi drivers before, but those have always ended quickly (and with much less violence.) Maybe I’d had a few too many drinks, and perhaps I may have been a little too aggressive with my demands, but I just wanted to get home. It was late, and I had to be up in the morning for football practice.
This taxi driver though, what an absolute prick. I know for a fact that this bastard saw how drunk we were and as a result tried to charge us more than double what we normally pay from Leidseplein to the east. And you know these cabbies; you know exactly how they work. They never go by the meter, and when you make a fuss about it, they get all pissed off with you. They’re just not gezellig, you know? I couldn’t believe my ears when he quoted me twenty-five Euros. I really thought that he hadn’t heard me properly, but when I told him we were just going to the Javaplein and he still nodded his stupid little head and said, “Yes, twenty-five,” I knew for a fact that he was taking advantage of us. It was the casual way he said it: “twenty-five”. It was the look on his face. It was everything a bout him; his air, even. You could tell he held himself in such high regard, upon a pedestal even; his people above ours. These Moroccans think they are so much better than us. Who the fuck do they think they are? Who the fuck are they? What the fuck is so special about them? Sometimes you just can’t get on with these bastards no matter what you do.
Dealing with these kinds of people, even thinking about them, tends to get me agitated very quickly. It’s just something about them; their inherent quality of putting on an air of superiority. Well, tonight was no different. I know for a fact that he was mocking me, and I knew that he knew that I knew, and tried to rip me off anyway. That’s what really pissed me off. It wasn’t the fact that he was ripping me off, it was that he was doing it consciously with the idea that I knew he was doing it. He seemed to get off on that. So I got into his face about it. I may have called him a few names, but what do you really expect? What would you have done in that situation? I got into his face a bit, but he tried to push me off, so I gave him a hard shove to the shoulder. That really seemed to set him off.
Maybe it was my shoving and shouting that turned him, maybe it was his cab driver buddies egging him on, I don’t know. One thing for sure is that the next thing I knew, he had that those little brown fingers of his curled up into a fist and it was heading directly for my face. This little shit knew how to throw a punch. His stinky little fist connected square with my jaw and I just went down, hard. The last thing I remember was the feeling of my head smacking hard on the cold concrete. Little did I know that I wouldn’t wake up from it. Had I known, I’m sure I wouldn’t have started the argument in the first place. Hell, had I known what was going to happen that night, I probably wouldn’t have even gone out at all. How said that that is my last memory: cold concrete.
THE CONFESSION OF THE TAXI DRIVER
It was a busy Friday night, more so than usual anyway, and I wasn’t in the greatest of moods. So when this little prick of a Dutch cunt started in on me, I didn’t have the least bit of patience with him.
At first, I tried ignoring his drunken belligerence, but he just wouldn’t let up. Some people just shouldn’t drink. I myself have been sober for twenty years and, God willing, I will be for twenty more. In my youth, I lived to excess, but now I am a good Muslim. It is the drink that brings out the worst in people. Like when this asshole Dutch motherfucker called me a “Moroccan piece of shit” and said to his fuckhead friends “They’re always trying to fuck you over,” He was out of his rites to say such thing.
First and foremost, my dear sir, I was born in Algeria, not Morocco, and for that matter, what does my nationality have to do with me ripping him off (if that is what I was trying to do, of course)? But what do these ignorant Dutch know? They don’t know a damn thing. They think all taxi drivers are Moroccan thieves looking to steal their money. They even think that it is the Moroccans who perpetrate all the crimes in this city. What ignorance! But even worse than his insults toward my heritage, were his insults to my family.
“Maybe we could get a better deal from his sister,” he yelled back to his friends. I could not believe my ears. This stupid, stupid man did not realize what he was getting himself in for. A little advice, my dear sir: never, ever insult the family of a Muslim man – it will only end very badly for you.
By this point, his head was sticking halfway through my car window and he was right in my face. I could smell the sourness of his breath; the distinct smell of the vodka he had apparently been drinking all night. I opened my car door to drive him back. If I can be honest with you, sir, I was scared for my life. I was unsure of what he planned to do. When the car door hit his knees, he seemed to get even angrier. He hurled more insults and racist remarks in my direction – I simply could not believe what I was hearing. Why would people say such things, even if they didn’t mean them? Like I said, some people are simply not fitted to consume alcohol.
I managed to get out of my car with the idea that I could calm him down. If only we could speak face to face, I thought, on level terms so to speak. It was when I did get out of the car that he erupted like a rabid volcano, pushing me back against the door of my car, again in my face. When I felt him place his filthy hands on my body, something inside of me switched on, or switched off for that matter. All standard reasoning and sensical thought flew out of the window. The beast in me was unleashed on that day. All this over a few Euros.
I prodded my finger into his chest, swearing and cursing at him in Arabic. I knew he would not be able to understand what I was saying, but the anger which I felt was only communicable in my own tongue. I find Dutch can be such a limited language when it comes to matters of the heart.
My fellow taxi drivers were getting out of their cars by this point, looking to offer their help and support and, as I was hoping, to pull the guy back. But it was too late for that.
This drunken Dutch bastard, God rest his soul, pushed me up against my car once again, and I just let loose. God would be ashamed of me for the lack of self-control I showed on that day. Without knowing what I was doing, my left hand had curled up into a fist and was flying through the air towards his face. The look of fear (and surprise) that crept across his smug face was apparent.
Despite seeing all of this happen in slow motion, as surreal as it was, I could not prevent these events from unfolding. Like I said, any sense of what was acceptable and morally correct left me that day.
When my fist connected with his jaw, I realized how hard I had hit him. I really didn’t think I had it in me, but there you go; sometimes emotions can get the best of a man. By nature, I am a passive man – one who does not believe in war amongst men, or violence of any sort. But what I am at heart, what I truly stand for as a person, does not enter into the equation when one is faced with his own personal devil. And there is a devil in all of us, just as there is a part of God in all of us as well. But it was the devil that showed up on that day. When that man went down, I realized what had happened. When I heard his head hitting the concrete, I knew what I had done. I didn’t need the police telling me that I had killed him; that sound told me all I needed to know.
Despite my actions, I am ashamed for what I have done. A good Muslim man would not have done such a thing. I do not deserve to be called a Muslim, and I do not deserve to go unpunished. I know I won’t, but that is not the point. It is my shame which is my true punishment, and nothing they can do will be worse than that. I took a man’s life with this cruel act of misjudgment. Why I have done this, I do not know, however I will have a lifetime to think about it.
Things like this – these random acts of violence – reflect poorly upon my people; not just Algerians or Moroccans, but all people with a shade of skin which is not white. It is incidents like these which give the Dutch all the reason in the world to loathe the Algerians, to loathe the Moroccans, and to loathe anyone that looks like us. Because it is true that when these things happen in their own towns, the people of a city come to not hate, but fear the man of colour, to fear the Muslim man. It will not matter that the man who I killed was drunk. It will not matter that he was belligerent and instigated the dispute. And it should not. That is not a fit excuse for what I have done. But it also should not reflect poorly on my people. By nature, we Muslims are a non-aggressive people, a people who share a common love for all of God’s creatures. We are not prone to violence. No, this was one man’s actions, one man’s responsibility, and one man’s mistake. And it is I who will live with that fact for many years to come.
By Grant Walker