He came in swinging wildly. I ducked the first punch and side-stepped the second. The bare knuckle of his hammer found it’s mark on the third swing, right into my ribs. A gasp of air escaped my lungs.
All sides of the box were lined with faces, packed side by side, three and four rows deep, ringside. The crowd yelled and screamed, wildly waving their hands in the air, while we traded blows, swinging and lurching at one another like pit bull dogs. We were the embodiment of battling heavy metal guitar riffs; metal slamming and sparking on contact. I swung as he leaned just out of reach. He ducked the jab. I bobbed his uppercut. My right cross landed on his lower jaw and neck. I heard a slight moan escape his lungs.
The Sun’s heat slicked the arms and chest. People streamed in from all over the neighborhood to watch two bucks get at it. The protesters were absent, just like they are absent everyday in my neighborhood. We bare knuckle brawled in a hot, cotton Sun. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We mean-mugged each other at the center of the ropes, posted in the soft earth, marking the square fight area. I looked into his eyes while we stalked one another. I definitely didn’t see myself in them. He was just another cat to get at, another cat to eat. And eat him I would. I fought with a hustler’s commitment to a better life, to fame, to the American dream.
This was my first fight, following my time served. I devised this plan as a mental release while I paced about my cell with too many hours on my hands and too many years for my crime. I was at the wrong place, at the wrong time, but not today. Don’t get it twisted, an angel I am not, but a crime was perpetrated against me when my time was stolen. Today is my first step toward owed restitution.
I devised this plan to release me and my daughter from the life I would be returning to. She was so young when my mistake took me from her. While I was boxed up in that cell, I constantly ran through my memories of her; wiping them off; uncurling the edges; all to keep them as sharp as the day I committed them.
I devised this plan and scribbled it down, floated it out on a kite to my older brother. He told me to keep my head up. He’d be there when I got out.
A wild swing came past. This dude’s a street brawler. I let it float. He was too wild, too undisciplined. He was running off pure petro – his wild rage, his frustrations. I felt them too. I swung again. This time catching him with most of the blow as he raised his arm to block it.
He was breathing hard. His arms dropped – jaw unguarded, exposed, and available. I realized he was ready. His will was gone, the sparkle left his eyes. There was nothing left to do, but to send his body following after it. I moved in with a left hand. Then swiftly behind with an overhand right. My fist came down on him, flush against his skull; Clocked that boy right in his jaw. His head rocked and then his body began to fall to the ground like wood.
Bouncing off the grass and dirt, his body planked, kicking up the dust. His arms cock-roached in the air. His hands still locked tight in a fist; His vacant eyes stared straight up.
We fight for the spectacle – dirty street heroes. They eat it up; Pit bulls outside the box, fighting over red meat. We offer it up, our flesh, disregarded and undervalued, tossed out into the crowd. It’s of little value to them, but it’s all that we have, I have.
Everyone cheered, “Whoo! Dayum! Ohhh! Ohhh! Yeah, boy! Yeah!” His ears had to be ringing. I gotta tell you, my juices were flowing; I was amped; I was beastin’ this box. I mean it felt like I had just dropped a three from half court; power-ran through a linebacker into the end zone; dunked, ferocious and hard, over the defender’s outstretched hand.
Someone went over to him and propped up his body, pulling him up into his arms. He attempted to shake him out of it, but he didn’t move. His breathing was labored. The guy poured water over him, trying to engage the reboot, put the ghost back into the machine. The seconds in that moment felt like minutes. Those minutes felt like hours.
I remembered his story. I remembered what he told the camera shortly before the fight. He was hoping he could win enough fights to get noticed and into the UFC – make some cheese and get a better life. But man, fuck his story, I need this to get my family to a better place; somewhere away from here. The legitimate holes up outta this trap house are far and few between for someone of my background. The opportunities available to me, don’t require a resume, but my rap sheet shows my experience. This is my best way out the hood. The best way to leave this life for good. If it’s gotta be somebody in the dirt, better him than me. This is blood serious.
His little girl dropped to her knees, beside him, begging him to wake up. She reminded me of my little brown bear. Tears streamed down her face. I could feel the wetness of her tears against my face, the warmth. My eyes rolled and came into focus. I stared straight up into the sky and into the crowd of faces standing over me.
I recognized my brother’s face. I could hear him telling everyone to back up. “Let him get some air! Back up!” He was cradling my head and shoulders, rocking me and pouring water over my head. He said, “You gonna be alright. You gonna be alright.”
Under the noise, I could hear a song playing just loudly enough, “You not a grown man yet kiddo. The sun shine the same time the rain wets ghettos. The sky cries tears on my window pane…” I knew the song and the lyrics well. The irony was not lost on me.
Realizing what happened, I looked back out at the sky, as my own tears began to flow. My brown bear just wanted her daddy to be alive. I just wanted us to be free. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I’d been spending too much of my life inside boxes. Even though I had escaped one box, right here and now, I might just die inside one and because of it.
by malakhai jones
(C) copyright 2016