Thursday, January 17, 2013
I entered the boxing gym. The head coach smiled at me. It struck me as odd. Why’s he smiling, I thought. “Good day.” I shook his hand and went to see my personal coach.
“Hey Coach, can you wrap me.” He holds my right in his left and wraps with his right. He holds my left with his left and wraps with his right.
“Into the ring,” my boxing coach, Luis said.
I stepped between the ropes and went in. You said, “Fly like a butterfly. Well, that’s what we’re learning today. You’re going to dance inside that ring.”
He shouted commands at me. Left. Right. Forward. Backward. Pivot. Left. Right. Backward. Forward. Pivot. Pivot. Left. Right. Pivot. And so it went.
At first, it was difficult because my head had to process the instructions. But like picking up the rhythm of a song, I was starting to feel more of the glide in my feet around the ring. The old coach came up and said to my coach, “Hey – he’s coming along. You did a good job with him.” From my peripheral vision, I caught the younger coach smiling.
The older one said, “Look at his balance. Center of gravity. Everything’s good. Good.”
And then, the head coach looks too. For a moment, I felt like time stopped. The informal coaches and the formal ones and the younger kids had their eyes on me. They were thinking, who is he? He came from Baldwin Park. Why does he train so hard? He doesn’t need to.
I made a mistake now and then. I bounced back from the intense pressure of being watched at those moments without thought. All the years of law school humiliation I suppose does that to you.
In the corner, was the-other-Asian-guy, the one who hated me. He looked angry, like an abused and stray village dog. He too knew I had made progress. Progress. He’s been there for years ignored and neglected. Now, I show up and in 5 weeks, I was coming along – along fast.
“Alright,” Luis says. “Out of there. Go to the mirrors. I have some drills for you.” So, I go and do them. My coach leaves me. I practice for what seems to be forever doing the same thing over and over again. Repeat. Repeat. Mistake. Try to Fix. Fix. Repeat. Repeat. Mistake.
My white shirt begins to soak through with sweat. Hugging my skin, my torso show like a girl’s breasts do in a wet t-shirt contest. My hair is wet. When I shake it, pearls of sweat fall on the black mat, scattering it like morning dew on blades of grass.
How much more of this am I meant to do? I think. No one is watching. This is boring. More and more, until you master this. Got it? Good. Because nobody will stand over you watching you in life. Learn that now. And most of mastery is boring, will be boring, and boring is what you need to endure.
At some point, the head coach comes towards me. So, I wasn’t being ignored. Luis is with him. The head coach is smiling.
Luis has two red, shiny, boxing gloves in his hands. He presents them to me with a smile as well and says, “Put these on.”
In the moment I should’ve said thank you, time just passes and passes. The words choke in my throat. Say something. I can’t. I don’t know why.
The head coach, instead says, “Look at him. He’s literally speechless. Come on, Man. Put them on. You knew they were coming.”
I wish I could’ve hugged them both. I wish I could’ve said thank you. I wish I could’ve said anything. I mean, of course I feel grateful, but come on, I don’t deserve these.
“I guess this is means the big ‘C’ word.” Luis gives me a look that shows me he doesn’t know what it means. Either of the C words.
Head coach says, “That’s right: Commitment.”
“Haha,” I said. “Someone who knows from experience the fear.”
I take the gloves. Put them on. They fit snuggly.
Luis asks, “How do they feel? Good?”
“Well – let’s get you started on the bags then.”
The players, the formal coaches, and the informal coaches, see me and the gloves. They look and know and talk amongst themselves: the China man is here and seen but where is he going.
At the end of practice, people I’ve never met introduce themselves to me. I walk to the parking lot with the coaches and the teenage players. One of the high school kids asks me, “What do you drive?”
I ask him back, “What do you think I drive?”
He looks at all the cars in the parking lot and says, “It can’t be the BMW Z3.”
“Hey, come on coach. Let’s go.” I walk over to my shiny, black BMW Z3, open my trunk, and put in my gym bag. I look behind and see the boy speechless.
“Let me give you a ride, Coach. It’d be my pleasure.”