Friday, May 1, 2015

This Body, Broken For You

originally posted April 2, 2012

--Where you been?

--Injured. And I lost my confidence.
--Come back.

The gym is my church. I sweat alongside folks I wouldn't know otherwise, two or three times every week. At the Y, I egg another rep out of Lee on the bench press, and Sonya brings me an Indian spice I've been hunting. At the boxing gym, Shaun tells me his dream of opening a business. Our shared goals foster community.

But if the gym is church, my sanctuary is found at the fights, in the folding chair of a darkened auditorium.

Injuries had kept me out of the boxing gym for months, but when I opened the paper a few weeks back and saw the ad for Golden Gloves, I headed out. Last club show I had entered through the door for fighters and coaches, but this time, I bought a ticket and sat alone. As I watched, occasionally talking with the older man next to me (a former boxer, it's always a former boxer), I recognized familiar voices shouting in the crowd. Shari's sitting over there, I could tell; Shaun's on the bleachers to my left.

Eventually I sent a text, and, when I could pull away from the chatty old boxer, we had a reunion at the snack bar. Hugs. Where you beens. And, more importantly, Come back.

Over the past three weekends, I've caught up with these people I know only through the dance called boxing. The nights are long, and to break up the four hours I talk, sometimes make a new friend, lean against the back wall, or find a half empty row to sit alone and think. Despite the noise, despite the clinging smoke, and even with two guys swinging at each other, this is a posture of meditation for me. I'm watching the fights, evaluating technique, but I'm also not watching them, and instead sitting with my thoughts.

Among which are these: The length of my recovery back to boxing has humbled me. I am grateful for what I can do, and what I could do is behind me. I'm smarter now, if not as strong. And I'm content with the here and now.

Friday night a coach greeted me at the wall and invited me back behind the curtain with the coaches. You can't see the action from back there, but boxers are warming up on mitts, and those in queue are being built up with a litany of call and response:

Nobody said it's gonna be easy.
--Uh uh.
It is what it is.
--That's right.
You got what it takes.
--Amen.

I am of a different color and race than most of the people behind this curtain, and yet somehow, we fit together, and being with them has brought me back to life. A young man interrupts my thoughts, raises his taped hands to my shoulders and asks,

--Amy, where you been?
--Injured. And then I lost my confidence.
--Work it out in the gym. Come back.

The music played, and he walked to the ring with Shaun at his back. He played hard, and won. His return was greeted with accolades, fist bumps and hugs; his sweat dampened my cheek. This was an intimacy earned by showing up so many weeks of the past year, even when it was tough to do so. Or maybe it was simply a moment of grace, given freely, by water and by blood.

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