Bottles and Brothers
“Stay here. Do not leave, if you have the balls. If I don't use a knife on you tonight, I won't have the face to get by in this street anymore,” Yin the Younger, a vendor of the night market, shouted at a frequent customer at Han's stand. Yin breathed heavily, stinking of alcohol. Two vendors were holding him back and all hell was breaking loose in the market—which isn't uncommon. The cause of the brawl? According to Yin, he saw Liu and tried to toast him with a cup of beer. Liu turned Yin down and threw his beer to the ground, sneering, “You will always be beneath me!”
All of this, and the violence that would follow, dated back to a supposed 200 RMB overcharge from Yin to Liu when the latter ate at the former's stand several days ago, playing out a perfect scene of the “rivers and lakes” masculinity that so embodies these migrant street market communities. Liu bragged that he earns over 5,000 RMB a month as a train conductor, so he would have no need to cheat the bill. Yin countered with his supposed mob contacts and more than “10 brothers” in prison to whom he sends money. Liu countered this counter with a claim that he could “mobilize 100 staff from the railway” to fight for him.
Then, bang. Yin mutilated himself in defiance, bashing a beer bottle over his own head, white foam running on the concrete.
Han, the man who gave me my first job in the market (and ever the peacemaker) intervened by taking the half-bottle away from Yin and dragging Liu to the opposite side of the street. Yin tried to follow, and when I and others tried to stop them, we were hit and kicked.
After another half-hour the fight came to its end. Han managed to have both parties seated at his stand with three bottles of beer placed before Yin, Liu, and himself. Han asked Liu to fill the cup and toast Yin first to apologize for insulting him. Then, he ordered Yin to fill the empty plastic cup for Liu, and both of them drank and agreed not to pursue malicious intentions. When it was Liu's turn to fill the cup for Yin, he made a sentimental speech, stating that it would be the last banquet he would have at the night market.
“Brother Han, I didn't tell you that we are leaving next Monday, and perhaps not coming back. You know us train guys are just like soldiers,” he turned to Yin. “I come from the North; you are also from the North. Why do we leave our hometowns? It is only for good fortune...let me toast you.”
He drank the full cup in one go and thanked Han for his care. He left the table, and Yin did not stop him.