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I Coulda Been a Contender

ImageDay one.

Aprons for Gloves tryouts and a solid beating received.  This guy looked about 6’6″, 230, and mean.  The session starts with me doing 50? situps, one minute on a heavy bag, and then sprinting into the ring for an ass kicking.

I’d like to think he wailed on me because he figured I could bring some game, I threw everything i had on him, hooks, jabs, uppercuts.  I danced, bobbed, and weaved, and for a total of 26 seconds it looked like the old man could still deliver the milk.

Something changed after those glorious seconds passed, and as I took a moment to catch my breath and think about how awesome a pugilist I was, the sky darkened.

In an instant, I was in a hailstorm of mitts, lost in a tornado of black gloves and hate.  I tried to hold my ground, I locked eyes with my assailant, and all he returned was a grim smile.  I could see that my weakness was like fried bacon on sunday morning for him, and he was coming in hungover and hungry.

I put up a wall (cowered in the corner) and the assault continued.  The crowd, once cheering me on as I murdered a heavy bag, crushed crunches like Balboa, and swaggered around the ring like a caged tiger, suddenly turned.  Cheers of encouragement quickly turned to concern, and one voice, as if by divine intervention, yelled ‘take a knee you’re getting killed’.

It seemed a simple strategy, but all the begging, cowering, and weeping had done little to stop the pain’icane, taking a knee seemed counter-intuitive.  The good news is that I was most of the way there anyways, so when it dipped down, brushing the welcoming canvas every so lightly, the skies parted, the beating stopped, and I had a chance to catch my breath.

Then this guy starts counting to 10, and I won’t lie, I was a bit concerned that this meant there was more to come if I didn’t stay down.

I consider myself a logical man, to a fault, but as i was fumbling for the keys to my logic-mobile, I could see this behemoth of a man glowering at me with a cruel anticipation of all the harm he was going to inflict if I had the misfortune of lifting that knee.  The keys slipped, I stood up on the 8 count, and I’m pretty sure I beckoned him over, determined to go out swinging.

He came at me fast, tossing aside any concept of mercy to an old, doughy, dreamer who didn’t have enough sense to stay down.  In a moment, I formulated a plan that included a distance game, keeping him away with jabs, and staying mobile.  It made sense in my head, as key scenes from Rocky’s 1 and 2 ran quickly through my mind.

The sky darkened again, the room went quiet, but not in awe.  What little respect they may have had for a good effort had changed to confusion.  There was no pity, just confusion.  Why, oh why, would you do that…

My mind braced for the impact, I initiated the multi-faceted plan of movement and attack.  I waited for limbs to move, legs to shuffle, head to bob, and quickly realized I had used it all.  Every bit of oxygen, protein, sugar, and sheer will had been used.  Scenes from Rocky were quickly replaced by scenes of Scotty in engineering screaming, “she’s given all she’s got, we’re sitting ducks out here!  Brace for impact!”

I heard it before I felt it.

Time slowed, as if by some mercy to give me time to ponder my last moments, and seconds clicked by.  I had no epiphanies, no sudden realization that I had wasted my life on trashy women and booze (those are investments, kind sir).  Like a man walking the green mile, I had gone dead inside, transitioning into flesh and bone while my soul started the long journey elsewhere.  I was no longer present, and I surrendered my flesh to the fates.

The sound was at first soft, and then as it bore into my consciousness it grew more grating, harsher, as if to worm its way into my mind and physically pull the conscious mind out of its panic room.  I had never heard this noise before, it was a buzzer of sorts, but it didn’t belong here, in this cathedral of death and pain.  It belonged somewhere sporting, like a gym, or ..oh shit here he comes.

He stopped right at my face, leaned way down, and whispered “you’re so damn lucky”.

Moments after I had made my peace with my fate, I was free.  Free to suck in as much sweat stained air as I wanted, free to release my pillowy gloves from the protective detail around my face, free to finally pursue that relationship with the canvas floor.  Coyly, I grabbed the ropes, held onto them with an iron grip, and whispered softly to the mat.  ‘Our time will come, wait for me’.

I may have been bested, by a bigger, stronger, and more skilled man.  A man whom I will forever have nightmares about, and always picture as the cruel overseer of whichever hell I land in, but I have tasted death, and I no longer fear it.

I will not back down, I will not give up, and I will not quit.  I will stand or I will fall, but I will do so with every intention of emptying the tank on whoever stands in front of me.

I will get stronger.

Learn more at

http://www.apronsforgloves.com

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