Week 12: The Non-Fighter (Prompt: A story set during a contest or competition)

When I was a kid, my favorite time of the week was the Saturday fights. I can remember going even when I couldn’t climb the rafter steps on my own I was so small, and Dad had to hoist me up by my armpits. As a young boy, I dreamt of being one of the fighters. I used to watch them with stars in my eyes, in awe of their auras, their bodies, their sheer being. I’d go home and try to be like them, walk like them. Punch my pillow and narrate my own fights.

I might have thought about pursuing it, but as a teenager, I realized something disastrous for my fighting career — I wasn’t a fighter. I didn’t like being hit or hitting, didn’t like the aggression. When Mattie challenged me to a fight for Sophie in sophomore year, I couldn’t even face him down. I let Sophie go. She didn’t look me in the face again until senior year, and only then with pity.

I wrote it off as a boyish dream and went to college, where I was taught to think about why and how and question everything. I left questioning everything, and wandered a bit.

It was during that wandering time that I found myself wandering back to the fights. To my surprise, they still called me, still filled with the same fervor and thrill.

It took me a long time to figure out why they did that, to me, this mild, unassuming, non-fighter of a lost man.

I realized finally that it wasn’t the fighting, per se. It was the personas. It was the way the fighters came in with their hoods and entourages, like modern gods or gladiators. The aura of their energy, blasting through the arena. The way they were nowhere but there, inside the ring, all their energy and being wrapped up in that charged cube of living.

I didn’t want to fight; I wanted to be the one who walks in to thunderous roars and only flicks their head, who carries all the human energy of the spectators in their fist.

Some years down the road, I finished my PhD and started teaching. I wrote about the force of the non-fighters, and yet, every time I walked into the lecture hall, I stopped at the door and closed my eyes.

In that second, I was back at the fights. Covered in a robe, my supporters at my back, the crowds stamping their feet and shouting themselves hoarse.

It was only then that I walked through the door.

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