Sometimes there’s a focus so sharp, that it’s impossible to see anything else. That’s how these sort of things happen. One minute I’m standing on top looking down at everyone, the next it’s the sound of a heart monitor beeping. It’s the kind of blow that knocks you sideways. The kind of shot that gives you tunnel vision, where there’s only one goal, and you’re willing to do anything to achieve it. That’s the kind of focus I’m talking about.
Here I stand in the corner, a wrath, burning storm swinging, waiting for the final bell to ring.
Saturdays, I’d take my little boy to little league games to watch the other boys play. He was egg shell frail, so he couldn’t be a part of the team. After the game, I’d take him to the ice cream parlor where the rest of the boys would be. Most of the kids didn’t know him since he was rarely ever in school. They knew me from TV.
“Hey, Champ,” the fathers would say. “Can me and my boy take a picture with you?” I’d put my knuckles up to their chin and flash a big toothy smile.
The kids would play tag in the field next to the parlor on those sticky July afternoons. I’d lean in close to my son, take off his oversized baseball cap and kiss his bald head. I’d tell him to go run around with the other boys. He’d come back out of breath, not able to keep up.
When it all became too much, when Reuben was hospital bed ridden, we didn’t make it to the Saturday games. We didn’t make it to church on Sundays either. Nearly every day, Father Lawson would find the time to come by my son’s room for prayer. When Reuben was too tired to pray, when he had his eyes closed, Father Lawson, my wife and I would hold hands and pray by his bedside.
After the final prayer, the one we recited committing Reuben to the ground, Father Lawson asked that we stay with the church. For more prayers, he said.
I said I no longer had much need for prayer.
When I told my wife, Angela, that I was coming out of retirement, she asked if I was crazy or stupid. Or both. “How could you?” she asked. She said we didn’t need the money. It wasn’t about that. “You’ve been through enough,” she said. Maybe, but it was something I had to do. She said I used to train like an addict. I call it focus.
I committed to training, working harder than I ever have. Harder than the peak of my career, when I was Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Before I’d gone soft.
I trained alone, leaving the house for hours on end. When I was home, I spent most of the time on a scale obsessing over my weight. Within a few months time, my body morphed as I trained harder and harder. Disgusted, Angela couldn’t look at me.
Still, with all the work I’d been doing, it wasn’t enough. I was no where near the shape I needed to be. I trained harder, taking in more calories, obsessing over the scale. I pushed beyond any boundaries I’d known.
One day during training, Angela came home with Father Lawson. You can read a man’s eyes when he’s afraid. “Samiel,” he said, “you’re sick. Please let us help you.” I threw my protein shake against the fridge. “Samiel,” he said, “we’re not here to fight. We love you.”
I said my fight wasn’t with him, but right now, he’s in my way. They were both in my way.
When Angela left for good, I never left the house.
I spent the next eighteen months training at home. I kept out of the public eye. I refused Angela’s calls. I streamlined my gym, everything designed to fulfill one goal: to prepare for the fight. I set up automatic accounts, provisions dropped off at the front door.
I trained around the clock, consuming necessary calories, monitoring the scale, allowing enough rest to repeat the process over and over again. The results were obvious as I inched closer and closer to my goal.
The inevitable happened, the variable I lost sight of: I was exhausted.
A sluggish brontosaurus sinking into the tar pits, stairs were no longer an option. Collecting provisions became a time consuming affair. Still, I pushed on with training, close to my goal, preparations nearly complete.
Too much mail piled up. The police came knocking at my door. They asked if everything was alright. I said that it was. You can read a man’s eyes when he’s afraid. I told them to leave, not to bother me while I’m trained.
The police must have called her, because Angela came by the next day. She smelled like a past life and looked like a new one. I sat on the floor leaned up against the fridge.
“Samiel, what did you do to yourself?” Her chin trembled, her eyes held back tears.
I said that I was still training, she knew I came out of retirement.
She asked if I could stand up, if I could even walk out of the house. I said it wasn’t necessary, I was doing just fine where I was at.
“Samiel, look at you,” she shoved a compact mirror in my face, “you’re killing yourself.” She took the spoon out of my hand, wrenched away the carton of melted ice cream I cradled in my arm. My fight wasn’t with her, I said. She stormed out of the room returning moments later holding a picture of the three of us, Angela, Reuben and I. She asked me if I remembered. Of course I did, why would I have gone through this?
You can read a woman’s eyes when she understands.
She asked why I wanted to die. Isn’t it obvious, I said. To face Him. Look at the picture again, take a good look at what was taken from us. He has to answer to someone.
Reuben, Son of Vision, Genesis 29:32
My egg shell son, taken.
Let Him face the Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Samiel, fallen angel.
“I’m calling 911,” she said.
It’s too late, I’m done training. My chin sank into my chest, the sound of my heart beating slower and slower.
Waiting for the final bell, a wrath, burning storm swinging.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Metz lives in Somerville, MA with his dog, Karl. He’s currently working on a novel and other short stories. He’s had live music reviews and artist interviews published at MySecretBoston.com and Melophobe.com. When he’s not writing, he’s playing bass with The Real Makers in Boston and Rhode Island.