This is a continuation of this story.
“You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too
You’ll fire your musket but I’ll run you through
So when you’re waiting for the next attack
You’d better stand there’s no turning back
The bugle sounds as the charge begins
But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horses breath
As you plunge into a certain death”
The Trooper– Iron Maiden
I am standing in a makeshift locker room located in an abandoned warehouse. A pair of headphones are on my head, my eyes are closed and I am starting to prepare myself for what is going to come. Â It won’t be long before it is my turn to step into the ring. Won’t be long before I give the standing across from me the thousand mile stare. I’ll look through him and do my best to hide the butterflies in my stomach. I never mention those butterflies to anyone because no one cares and this isn’t the place for showing weakness.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that you never want the man who is supposed to beat you with his fists and feet to think that you fear him. You NEVER do anything to give him an ounce of confidence and you never show mercy. If you see his knees buckle you do something to make sure that he doesn’t regain his balance. Every fight is a moment in time and every fight is a message to the next guy you face. If it is possible to instill fear in him you have an advantage or so I have always thought. Of course it is ironic for me to say this and acknowledge the butterflies in my stomach but that is the truth.
Adrenalin is beginning to surge through me and I am doing my best to channel it. You don’t want to peak too soon or you’ll face going flat. So I stand here staring absentmindedly at the wall. I stand here listening to a mix of music. Much of it is stuff that I would use for a workout but there is a healthy dose of angry music too. I am turning inwards and looking for the darkness that lies inside me. I am searching for the places where I have never let go of things that hurt me. I am looking for the dark corner where my demons hide because soon I will call upon them.
Sometimes it is hard because the images of my kids race past me. I hear their voices and see their faces. They are my contradiction. They make me smile and feel loved. They bring me hope and warmth but at the same time the reason that I fight is for them. I fight because we live in hard times where college educated men who have worked all their lives can’t find a job. My life is like Â a scene from a movie except if I was the one directing it the lead would be a guy who used to work in a coal mine or a steel mill. He would be blue collar and fighting for a better life for his family.
Instead they got some jerk that looks like me and signs checks with my name. I can’t stop thinking about the kids but I can’t let myself be distracted. They can’t know about this. They can’t be told what their dad does to earn a living. I am already ashamed that I had to lie to them and say that I am out of town on a work assignment but I had to. If they saw me after one of these fights they’d be scared silly. It is not an exaggeration to describe me as battered and bruised. I have taken a severe beating more than once and the only reason that I have won is because I am too stubborn to fall.
So I lie to them and stay in cheap motels. In the dark of night I lie in bed self medicating with a fifth of whatever helps me sleep. Every night before I close my eyes I tell them that I love them and promise that I will come home soon.
Jimmy knocks on the door, walks in and interrupts my thoughts. He says that it won’t be much longer before it is my turn. The music changes to Breathe by Prodigy and I start to dance around the room. I start shadow boxing and work on getting loose. In a few minutes Jimmy will come back and together we’ll walk through the dilapidated halls to the ring. It won’t be anything like the professionals see in Vegas. There won’t be a big musical number or an entourage to accompany me. Michael Buffer won’t be there to give his trademark “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” either.
Instead there will be a sad looking ring surrounded by a blood thirsty crowd who doesn’t care much who wins as long as there is blood and a beating.
Jimmy’s back. I close my eyes and unlock the cages that contain the demons. Sometimes I think that I can hear them howl in anticipation but that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that sometimes I hear myself screaming too and the screams aren’t necessarily angry. Sometimes I hear something that sounds like pleasure. Sometimes I hear something that makes me wonder if I haven’t begun to enjoy this.
Something better change soon. I better find another way or get some sort of break because if this keeps up it is a guarantee that one day I will begin to enjoy this and I’ll lose that much more of whatever remains of my humanity.