That first time


You’re bound to feel nervous, that first time, that very first time. Hands slowly clench and unclench, willing the nervous energy out of them; it just won’t go. You’ve agreed the date, the time, chosen what to wear. Not that all of your outfit is up to you, but you’re letting a little personality show through. Perhaps they’ll remember you for that. There’s a woman across from you with two long red plaits draped over either shoulder, looking for all the world like a Gaul or a Celt. You wonder how you look from the outside. A bit scrawny, probably.

You arrive first, naturally, and sit waiting while others mill around, having a drink with their friends or quietly checking out the talent across the room. You tell yourself not to keep looking at the door every damn time a shadow crosses it, but then you look again. Breathe. Focus on your breathing, Good, solid advice from good solid men. And then they do finally show themselves across the threshold. Thud-thump thump is your heart, as you finally set eyes on them. A little taller than your reckoned? A little older too? They look across, their eyes to yours and its instant recognition. How long you’ve both been waiting. You do your best to hold their gaze, send some of the intent back along the now very tangible connection between you. Then, suddenly as it formed, it breaks as they turn away. Relieved to have passed this first little test you return to your hands, clenched in front of you. Breathe. Breathe. Soon you’ll be moving in time.

Your friends and family have wished you well. Not all of them understand your reasons, but it doesn’t matter, you’re doing it regardless and they can’t help you tonight anyway. Briefly you think back to how your one friend from way back pushed you into this. “At least you’ll get out of the house, meet some new people” they said. Yes, meet some new people. And then, eventually, once they get close enough, punch them in the face.

There’s a roar from the crowd as an out-of-town boxer is backed up against the ropes, but you’re not watching. What if someone like you got beat up and knocked down, that would be a bad omen. Better to stay focused on what you can control. Your left, your right, your feet, your breathing. To try and control anything else would be as crazy as trying to hold back the torrent of golden sunlight that was pouring in from this place’s bank of west-facing windows. The last place never had such light to contend with. The old gym, so far away now that the right hook the guy in the ring just threw probably came from the same post-code. The camera guy had to find somewhere new to stand, the makeshift bar has to fit somewhere else, while the doctor’s table is still the same table, its new as well.

You get up, roll your shoulders, kick out your feet. Its time. If not now, when? You start the routine: checking the shoes, the shorts, the tape. Can it be a routine if this is the first time? Perhaps this is the start of one. Perhaps this routine will never be seen again. The corner men lace up your gloves, pat you on the shoulder and offer some last words of advice or encouragement. You can’t tell which, all you hear is your breath going in and out. You step forward, nod along to the ref’s instructions, finally eye to eye with your opponent. The thrill. If only every night could possess moments of pure anticipation as this.

Nod, punch gloves, step back, bell goes. You move in closer on adrenaline filled limbs, and then you start to dance.

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