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© 2007 JASON ANTONY



The Boxing Match

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this evening’s main event. In this corner, we have a newcomer with a record of zero-zero. Six feet tall and wearing white trunks, weighing in at two hundred forty pounds—everybody give it up for the widower.”

Applause fills my head with a Doppler-like effect as I look around at all the faces in the crowd, staring, piercing me to my soul.

“And in this corner, ladies and gentlemen, we have the undefeated champion with a record of several hundred billion wins and counting. Wearing black trunks and weighing in at black-hole density, everyone say hello to Grief.”

The room grows silent with all eyes trained on me. Everyone seems to know what’s coming but me, and I suddenly feel completely alone.

Round 1. The bell sounds the moment my wife dies. Grief and I leave our corners and near each other. I’m ready, but he doesn’t come out swinging. We close on each other and he offers a respectful glove for me to tap. I do so, then we back up a bit and raise our arms to let the fight begin.

We circle cautiously, each sizing the other up, waiting for an opening. Grief swings and connects the moment I see her in her casket for the first time. I fall backwards a bit, stunned and a bit shaky; I wasn’t expecting that kind of force. We circle some more and I make a couple of swings and misses. My third attempt connects, and while Grief seems unfazed, I feel a bit more secure and confident.

More circling until I feel the body shots. I realize I am listening to a pastor do a wonderful job of describing to the crowd how wonderful my wife was. Why is he talking about her in the past tense? It isn’t registering with me. The shots again leave me shaky, but still full of fight. An uppercut I didn’t see coming connects and sends me to the canvas for the first time as I realize I’m walking away from her for the last time at her grave.

I take the offensive and am able to deflect a couple of shots taken at me and manage to connect a few of my own. My energy wanes quickly though, and Grief starts landing punches. I become aware of the pain as I’m writing the countless thank-you notes to all the people who stood by my side and showed her kindness in her final days. As blow after blow knocks me around the ring, the pain becomes intense. I realize I’m being beaten badly and feel a wetness on my face. I assume my face is cut and they’ll stop the fight because of all the blood, but I soon realize it isn’t blood. Tears are streaming down my face.

The bell sounds, ending round one, and I’m getting my ass kicked.

Back in my corner, the brief respite allows me time to regroup, and as I do, I feel anger welling up inside me. This isn’t normal anger, this is a dark and bloodthirsty one. I appear calm, but must force my hands loose from the white-knuckled fists they’ve become. My love was taken away from me, and by God, someone is going to pay dearly for that. I look forward to the next round.

The bell rings and I am all over Grief at once. I am savage and relentless in my attack, as he does his best to block and dodge. I give him no openings to throw a punch; mine are non-stop and connecting. I do not tire this round, for I am overtaken with rage and driven by adrenaline. I will not be beaten. The bell ends the round.

Sitting in my corner, I look over at my enemy. For all the fury I unleashed, he seems none the worse for it. He actually seems calm, almost peaceful. As I sit there, the pain returns much worse than before. The anger has subsided and my internal defenses have broken down. It hurts bad and I want it to go away. I decide to change my tactics.

Round three begins and I attempt more footwork, hoping to confuse the enemy. I block a punch by buying a car. I dodge another by comfort-eating. Grief’s next punch connects, and I feel the pain. I keep him away from me by staying too busy to deal with him offensively.

Another punch lands that I didn’t see coming. I think I’ll be okay if I can just make it through this round. I wouldn’t even be in this fight if only I’d have been smarter. If only I’d have reacted quicker. She’d still be here if only . . . this punch puts me on the canvas.

The referee gets to the count of six when the end-of-round bell sounds. It’s not over.

I resign myself to defeat—the will to fight has left me. I feel no fear attached to it; rather, I feel only pain and sorrow. No matter how bad I want it, she’s not coming back and time, as it ever does, moves forward to the sound of round four.

It’s obvious my will is gone. I endure the beating I receive. I make little attempt to dodge or block the blows coming in waves. Some are subtle, some brutal, all devastating. None take me to the canvas, though, and somehow I remain standing. Somehow I endure. Somehow I survive it.

I look my foe in the eyes and am surprised at what I see. They aren’t the eyes of a killer. He hasn’t the look of a determined fighter; rather, his eyes project a sense of necessity. Grief is actually staring at me with a look of empathy as he continues the beating.

I didn’t even hear the bell end the round, and I’m suddenly back in my corner, bent but not broken.

The room goes silent to my ears. As I try to catch my breath, I realize I have no chance of winning this fight. I’m fighting a seasoned pro who’s seen all the tricks, heard all the excuses, and is unable to be taken off-guard. I’m only able to delay him, since I can’t run fast enough to lose him or hide from someone who’s everywhere all at once. There’s no place or time he won’t find me. I haven’t the strength to tough him out, so I know what I must do. Round five needs to happen.

The bell rings and I stand on bloody legs. As I stumble towards Grief, I remove the gloves from my bloody hands, letting them fall to the ground, my defenses gone. I look at him through tears and bloodshot eyes, and I smile, revealing bloody teeth. I stretch out my arms and fall into him. I let the two of us become one as I accept his purpose.

I let myself grieve.

A seeming lifetime passes before I emerge and turn to face him. I accept the hand he offers me, and as I do, he pulls close to my ear and whispers that I’ll be fine. I believe him.

Copyright © 2007 by Kevin S. Pendleton

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Kevin S. PendletonKevin writes:
"The Boxing Match" was inspired by my real-life experience of the loss of my wife to cancer. After she died, I began the battle of dealing with grief and saw the story as a way to describe the struggle it was. Living it all was difficult, while writing about it was easy, as I simply wrote what I felt. I hope it is an enjoyable read and further hope those in similar places get some comfort from knowing they are not alone and that the warm light of life will be there when they're ready for it again.

Kevin S. Pendleton is a 45-year-old engineer, married and living in central Ohio. "The Boxing Match," which is the winner of the nonfiction category in Cezanne's Carrot's 2007 "Return of the Light" contest, is also his first published work. Kevin loves to write, with concentrations in creative nonfiction and poetry. He can be reached via email at kpwriter@gmail.com.

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