There was a story I remember reading in school about El Cid, who challenged the Muslims who invaded Spain. He held a minor territory for a while, but still, he was a great leader. You hear these stories all the time if you look through the history books, but not many people apply them to their everyday lives. I’ve always wondered how many of these great warriors exist in our time that have gone undocumented and thus, die without their proper glory. It’s tough, when the world around us seems settled, no longer wild and without form. Ancient cultures seemed to fluctuate between rulers, with eager warlords rushing to rape and pillage, slaughter and sunder, to lay claim, plant their seed and have their name spread across the world. I think of the fall of the Byzantine Empire. One of the great structures, the Hagia Sophia epitomized that time, but then, when the Vikings invaded… someone wrote his name on it and it’s remained their to this day. Now, it’s history and no one cares; it’s as significant of the time as the structure itself. A great warrior left his mark; the world passes his name, posing with it for pictures. That’s the dream of every warrior, every madman and zealot. Every person struggles to be significant.
Del Cid didn’t think to be remembered, although a lot that he did was quite memorable. I once saw him fight through a broken nose. He just didn’t stop. There must’ve been a trigger in his mind, an impulse, an instinct, if you will, that pushed him through it. It told him to fight and that was what he did; it was all he knew. Stopping and tending to his bloody, crooked nose never occurred to him. It was disgusting to the rest of us, seeing his busted nose slanting against his bloodied face, but he didn’t seem to even notice the pain. I swear I caught his nose moving left and right, as he scrambled through the influx of pain and adrenaline. He fought so hard, if only to ensure that the other guy looked the same, felt his pain, understood the suffering that he’d endured. It was all about proving your toughness, proving who you are and what made you a force to be reckoned.
He wasn’t exactly a drug dealer. Del Cid was the guy the drug dealer calls to collect. He didn’t like to fight most of those guys or so he said, although he did enjoy his ‘tough guy’ persona. He liked a challenge. He told me that he didn’t like having a gun on him, because it took the fun out of it. One time, a guy tried to fight his way out of the apartment and Del Cid was forced to pummel him. He had two of his friends with him. Del Cid took care of them all, but he forgot to bring the money. The man came by a few hours later with the money. It just didn’t occur to Del Cid that this was about the money. He didn’t care. This wasn’t his job; it was his way of life and he loved it.
Del Cid didn’t last long in high school. I had nothing in common with Del Cid, excluding belonging to this fair city. I respected him, because I held an illusion for what he could be. Great men don’t come so often, especially in this city. I wanted to believe that things could get better. Del Cid ended up in jail. A funny thing happened when he went away. Everyone in his inner circle did the same. They disappeared. The glue that held them together dissolved in no time. Most found their place with other, lesser Del Cids.
In understanding a man like Del Cid, it’s important to examine more than his actions, but those that surrounded him. His father, an alcoholic, impregnated his mother five times, Del Cid being second oldest, before leaving and doing the same thing with another woman. He came back every so often, but it always ended in a fight with either Del Cid or someone else. The brothers fought all the time, if not out of anger, then just as a means to maintain the delicate hierarchy alongside their mother. Del Cid learned to fight in his own home, how to assert dominance and claim his place. It’s not exactly Spain or Hagia Sophia or even Sparta, but it still seems significant.