For once it’s not the noise level that grabs my attention but red and blue lights flashing into the living room, and by extension, into the bedroom where I’m falling asleep on my book.
I take off my earplugs.
The sound of my own breathing is immediately replaced by the sound of people shouting words I’m too far to hear.
My parents are deep asleep in the living room so I tiptoe to the window and the balcony to see what’s going on.
There’s a red Casualties’ Rescue and Assistance Vehicle parked downstairs, and just behind, a police car.
I grab my keys, put a t-shirt on—yes, in this weird order—and head downstairs without any rush. First responders have already been called, I’m just curious and awake now.
My parents live next door to a café and a nightclub. We don’t hear the music at all—it’s a small club nested inside a downtown building, not one of these big warehouses with several dancefloors—but as far as I can remember, les sorties de boîtes, the end of the night, have always been noisy, messy and occasionally deadly. Take a large group of strangers, put them in a small dark room, get them drunk and kick them out a few hours later… “really, what could possibly go wrong?” the genius who came up with the concept of nightclubs probably thought.
I’ll tell you what can go wrong. At various points over the night, clubbers who can’t get in for some mysterious or painfully obvious reasons fight with the bouncers. Once, a guy came back with a rifle and opened fire on the door—it’s now a reinforced door. Then you have drunker-than-you-should-be patrons who are kicked out from the club during the night—they rarely leave quietly and peacefully. You have the classic two guys fighting for a girl, or occasionally two girls fighting for a guy—apparently, threesomes are not an option in France.
Then you have the mysterious fights, the ones people didn’t see coming.
I remember a few guys getting stabbed when I was a teen.
It’s a shitty nightclub that tries too hard to be exclusive.
Downstairs, a girl was lying on the sidewalk against one of the big concrete blocks thrown around public squares and pedestrian streets as the new anti-terrorist feature to stop vehicle attacks.
Behind the police car, a guy was leaning against another concrete block, handcuffed.
In front of the nightclub, a group of people was smoking and drinking as if nothing had happened.
The following day, I read in the local newspaper that the guy, presumably the one I saw handcuffed, suddenly slashed another person with a shard of glass inside the nightclub. He blamed it on drinking too much champagne.
This brings me to the “werewolves theory” I developed. During the day, most French are able to interact normally and behave like decent human beings. But at night, the very same people find it perfectly acceptable to piss everywhere, puke, fight, and argue drunkenly in the middle of the street. Basically, in the span of a few hours, you go from “Bonjour madame, tout va bien? Oui? Merci, au revoir!” to “PUTAIN SALOOOOOPE! WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO FUCK ME, BITCH! LET’S ALL SING A STUPID SONG VERY LOUD FOR HOURS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, GUYS!”