Bobbie Pyron

The Ring

Tuesday night at boxing, I must have been in what they call “the zone”. Everything seemed to come together. Yes, this white girl even had her rhythm going.

I worked the speed bag effortlessly. Some of the other girls stopped to watch me work the heavy bag.

I threw killer combinations at my image in the mirror. Kitty said some of the most famous boxers in the world have been lefties like me.

“You're on fire tonight, girl,” Kitty said. “Let's get those big ol' gloves on and get you in the ring.”

The ring. My stomach felt all fluttery whenever Kitty said that, like when Ben kissed me.

Kitty finished wrapping my hands then laced up the leather gloves. I didn't like how helpless they made me. I couldn't even pick my own nose or scratch an itch once they were on. But as Kitty said, there wasn't much in boxing that was natural.

I slipped through the ropes, just me and Kitty and the lights shining bright.

Kitty barked out the combos. “One! Three! One, one, four!”

I anticipated her calls, nothing else in the world except her voice, my breathing and the pop of leather against leather.

“Snap your waist. Good! Good footwork!” Pop! Pop! I felt strong, focused, and strangely free. Pop! I couldn't remember the last time I felt this good. Pop! Pop!

Then, just as I threw a hook and jab combination, I heard a familiar voice, Sam's voice, say, “Geez, would you look at that. It's Mardie!”

I looked over my shoulder. Sam stood in the doorway, holding a basketball against one hip, grinning.

And next to him was Ben.

Sam elbowed him saying, “She could kick your ass, man!”

I dropped my hands, smiled and shrugged. I saw myself through Ben's eyes: ugly helmet over long sweaty hair, Michael's baggy shorts and t-shirt, huge leather gloves dangling at the end of my skinny white arms. I must have looked like a clown. Or a freak. I gave an apologetic wave.

Ben shook his head in disgust, turned on his heel and left.