Thursday morning at jury duty--or, rather, jury selection, during which I was selected for not one, but two cases--I sat watching the judge. Cool woman, I thought. Friendly but firm. Jokes but keeps control. I'm a lot like that; I could be a judge.
Then came some attorneys. "When your name was called, ma'am, you hesitated. Why is that?" asked the one, of a woman who would admit she'd rather be at work. Wow, I thought, that would be something--asking direct, pointed questions to take matters where you want them to go. I could do that.
By the end of the four and a half hours, my what I want to be when I grow up list grew by several options. Never mind that each would take years of study and training; my world had expanded. I now see why Take Your Kid To Work Day exists. And why fifth graders trek to that same courthouse for field trips. To discover I could do that.
By the time I arrived at the boxing gym that same night, the sense of omnipotence had faded. For two months I've shown up regularly, and for what? Why start a new sport at age 40, one that takes hours upon hours of practice at muscle memory?
I slogged away at the bags half-heartedly through the first hour and a half. With a short time left to spare, I sucked up some self-esteem and asked if someone would work mitts with me.
The trainers looked to each other and I cracked a joke, worried that maybe nobody wanted the old lady at the end of a long night: "I know I'm intimidating."
They laughed. Then one said to the other, "You laugh, but Amy here has potential."
Ah. I had hoped for as much, and I sure needed to hear it tonight, especially from a guy who doesn't effuse praise easily. But potential--it's a word commonly reserved for those with a whole lifetime ahead of them, like the young man, a fellow boxer, who would work mitts in the end.
"You want to work out, or you wanna learn," was the first thing he said.
"Learn," I answered. "I can get my workout elsewhere."
We began. The pop was strong and crisp off the mitts. His snap equaled my punches. He was young and he kept me out there, stringing endless double jabs at the end of a long night. I jabbed 'til I yelped. Second round, I knew no one was watching the clock. "Is this five minutes?" I managed to say. He smiled and kept calling out the punches. I kept up until lactic acid and exhaustion prevailed; he was still smiling, looking as pleased as I felt.
"She's in better shape than us!" he yelled to someone down below. The she and us are warranted; my age, gender and race keep me from blending in here. But they were watching, I could feel it, and these minutes may have bridged the divide.
"That was really good," he said, almost surprised. "Really good."
A young man of maybe 17, his is the face I've seen regularly each week. He's dedicated to the sport, has given years of time and will continue to work hard every chance he's given.
"You stretch good tonight, all right?" he called to me as I was leaving.
And then he added, "Ask me for mitts any time," knowing he'll be there again next week, and so will I.