The Fight Game
The car pulled up outside the usual bar. I don’t even know who was driving but I got out and embraced the cool evening air; every alveolus filling up with the chilling, fresh, wholesomely oxygenated air. The feeling started to grip me and pulled me in around the sternum, shaking me until I could feel myself jumping off the ground. My feet were no longer carrying any weight and I could float without any worry about direction. My friends floated with me and at times I would pause and carry on in their slip stream.
We drank whiskey at the bar and then more. So close to the sky, I was cold and needed the warmth of the liquor to course through my veins. I could feel it burning in my stomach and at any moment I could breathe fire. Everyone else knew it and they looked up to me as a guardian. These were my people and I loved every one of them. I wished I had more time to spend with them; their longing faces so honest and doting that I couldn’t bear to let them down. But I had so much to do and so little time. I knew that it was only times like these that my conscience was clear enough to make important decisions. My monstrous past could not be changed but I only now forgave myself and swore to do good. I would always do good. Starting tomorrow I would do good and it was so simple but I could only now see it. I had nothing to worry about for the future was mine. But for now I needed another drink so I drank another quarter bottle of rum.
I met a girl who I knew was in love with. Whatever words we exchanged matter little compared to how we both felt when we kissed. I floated higher and took her with me. We found more drinks and drank them. I’m not sure if she told me her name or her job. It was not just her curvy hips accentuated by her dress – whatever colour it was; it wasn’t just her huge breasts which I would softly squeeze as I kissed her. She could read my vulnerability and held me delicately, not allowing me to fall. It was amazing how much she knew. We would leave and go back to my house and we would have sex for hours. We would lay awake next to each other and talk about everything and just bathe in the sound of each other’s voices. We needed another drink before we left so it was back to the bar for more vodka. We drank the first one really quickly so we drank another. After swallowing down an M-bomb with a beer, I wandered off and found another group of girls. I thought I recognised one of them but perhaps not.
I don’t know where I was when Jim came and picked me up in the morning. I didn’t recognise the woman who I was in bed with or the 7 or 8 men and woman scattered around the floor. I picked up a 2 litre bottle of cider from the off-licence before I got in Eddie’s car. I could tell he didn’t approve but he didn’t say anything. It was a mutual understanding that I wouldn’t try to hide my habits from him because he could tell anyways, and he wouldn’t try to tell me to stop because he knew I wouldn’t listen. He wasn’t disappointed but he was upset. He felt helpless in his inability to break through the shell that protected me from all brightness and sanguinity of the outside world: the transparent barrier inside which I could clearly see the devastating effects of my actions, while all I could do was blind myself with my bottle of cider.
I had got through most of the cider by the time we got to the gym. Jim had taught me everything about how to develop a tight defence against different punches and combinations, and how to use footwork to move out of danger and how to counter shots and pick apart an opponent’s defence. He had spent hours with me, perfecting my technique and making me a controlled, elegant and untouchable athlete in the ring, but he knew little about how to break down the defence I had been building all the while. Nowadays he could see only glimpses of the innocent young teenager that he had practically adopted as his own. I found it was easier to stop feeling guilty for what I did to him as it had never helped me in the past. Whenever regret tried to bite me I would make myself numb so as not to feel its teeth sinking in. The numbness would spread and lead to more guilt which I could numb with more substances.
I went into the toilet and avoided looking in the mirror. I still had the scars on my hand and damaged knuckles from the last time I looked in a mirror. I threw up a couple of time in the toilet and searched through my pockets for any loose change. My luck was in; I found two cigarettes and a Valerie. I swallowed down the diazepam with the rest of the cider and lit up the cigarette. I was supposed to be at work in an hour but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t sure if I still worked there or not but I would have enough time to sit down for a while and relax. The smoke felt good as it filled up my lungs and then moved out. I knew it would be alright. Quite funny actually. I almost did a little giggle to myself. I was falling down now, but not in a bad way. It was like I was in an aeroplane that was on fire and I had just jumped out but I knew I wasn’t going to hit the ground at the bottom. I could almost reach out and touch the clouds as I flew past. It was good being around in this time.
“Seconds Out! Round 1!”
It was on. I knew I wasn’t ready, that I hadn’t train and I wasn’t fit. I also knew that I would win anyways. I couldn’t really tell if he was scared when I looked at him but he should have been. He came out to the middle of the ring and walked straight onto my jab. I brought my left hand back to my chin and slipped to the left, stepping in with my front foot and pivoting with a sharp left hook. Both shots landed cleanly and he felt them. Now he took a step backwards and brought his hands up tight with every faint that I threw. He threw some attacks of his own but they he was moving in straight lines and his punches were not accurate. I spun off the ropes easily and regained the centre of the ring.
I kept flicking out my jab and moving. I threw a big right hand that he blocked with his gloves but he felt the power of it and he retreated further. I threw faints and he moved his hands up even higher. I tapped his gloves with my left and then whipped in a big right hand to the body. As I moved out of range he tried to counter with a right hook but it was a slow punch that was easy to counter. I rolled under and landed a clean left hook on his chin. He dropped. It was the left hook that dropped him but I think it was the body shot that meant he couldn’t get back up.
I knew I was too good for unlicensed boxing; it wasn’t really a true sport. Back when I won the junior ABAs, I was a real boxer: elegant and powerful. I still sparred with the same fighters that I did when I was in the amateurs and it had changed a lot. The same boys that couldn’t touch me before, and I could pick off at will, would punch my face off for five rounds now. Deep down I knew that the kid I had just beaten wasn’t a real boxer but that wasn’t for now. The sambuca tasted good. I had gone to the toilet for another line and come back for more sambuca. I knew the barmaid well and I had slept with her quite a few times, so she gave me about half a bottle for a fiver. I thought she was just a ride before but now I wasn’t so sure. She seemed to have something for me and she could just look at me without saying anything and I knew what she meant. I arranged to see her later and come back to mine and she was delighted. I went over to see Jim.
Jim hugged me and I held on to him. I held on as long as I could because I hoped that if I held long enough, he would know why I wanted to keep him so close to me. I didn’t know anything to say to him so I just held him as close as I could. He disguised the hug as congratulations for the win but I knew it was more. In the past he would have talked to me again about going pro and sorting my training out and taking the boxing seriously but he didn’t this time. I could feel the wave passing through my body and I knew it was good again. Everything was good.
I was going to do good and I would start again tomorrow. I would go back to work and persuade them to give me my job back. They would give me it of course. I’m not actually a bad person and I am quite likable. In the past I just didn’t have the confidence to speak to people but I knew now. I was changing for the good and I would definitely do good, starting from tomorrow. Then after work I’d trained with Jim. I’d have one more season in the amateurs with a couple of unlicensed fights on the side, and then I’d go pro.
I could feel a wave move up from my pelvis, through to my shoulders. It tickled my spine and I wriggled with ecstasy. It was that feeling that meant I didn’t have to do anything except let it pull me. I didn’t know where it would take me but I trusted it. I went into the toilet for another line. My hands, working quickly with the credit card on top of the porcelain, were slightly swollen. The scars on my wrists were almost like tattoos; I liked the look of them. I had my ketamine in my pocket for later, and I went out to the sink to tidy myself up. I had some coke under my nose so I pushed it up with my finger and snorted it. I looked into the mirror and I liked what I saw. A genuine master of the fight game.