Dragging my stone-age ass up a ladder, the wise-ass young stud asked me if I needed a hand. My first reaction was to climb back down and lay him out. He didn’t look like much.
But I didn’t, i didn’t say nothing, I just quietly climbed the ladder. I thought about how I can hardly sleep now, what with the arthritis and the carpal tunnel and the pain in my arms. How many well placed shots are left in these hands and how many times they were bathed in ice to kill the pain of another broken bone, and the weakness of my back that makes it hard to stand.
His question took me back to my last time in the ring. Those young boys, fast and light, and elegant were kind to me. As kind as a man can be when he’s trying to beat you onto your back, but there was a kindness bestowed on the old man—maybe the blows were not so hard and maybe those boys didn’t dance quite so fast so my ancient arms and old eyes had a chance to catch them.
I still hear Luis say, “Yeah man, that dude wasn’t shit, but he sure beat your ass!”
But this boy here, by the ladder, I could tell he never stepped in the ring, he never smelled that sweaty moldy canvas face down. He never saw his vision close in from the sides to that pinspot, fine as a star’s light before conciousness fades from view. I doubt he ever tasted his own blood running down his throat from him nose or a split lip. I’m sure the boy was amused by my creaking knees and the slow pace my surgically repaired spine allowed me.
There is a kindness in the roundhouse punch that’s pulled and delivered maybe not quite so hard or the cut to the ribcage that doesnt break the bone. There is an honesty in and about the ring I don’t know that young stud will ever know, an honesty in trying to beat a man face to face and spit to spit. I fear taking a shot at the boy might result in a clumsy miss, and pretty sure he was the type to call a cop, not swing back.
I know the flower of youth has long ago died on the vine, but just let me pretend it’s still lush and vibrant for a few more rounds.