Posted by: M. J. Arcangelini | September 11, 2020

MY CAREER IN BOXING

            Somewhere during my years at Annunciation elementary school, must have been 4th or 5th grade, I was enrolled in a boxing program which took place on Saturday mornings. This may have been my parents’ idea, since it was during this period that I was being terrorized and beaten regularly by bully classmates. Somehow those kids knew I was queer before I even knew what that meant. Although boxing could just as easily have been my idea – one of those things that sounded good at the time but turned out to not be quite what I’d had in mind.

            I somehow made it through the weeks of lessons and practice. Mostly I recall avoiding it as much as I could. Hiding in corners and trying to stay out of the way of the men who were facilitating it – all of them in various shades of grey sweatshirts and blue jeans. I couldn’t avoid it altogether though, and did have to actually box some. I don’t remember a lot about it except the odd mixture of excitement, dread and fear that I felt around it. Mostly fear.

            Finally the last day of the program arrived: an afternoon of matches in which each of us would have to fight at least once in the eliminations leading up to a championship. They had a ring set up and everyone was encouraged to invite family and friends. There was, as a result, quite a crowd there that afternoon. I cannot remember whether I didn’t invite my family, or whether they couldn’t go – in either case, neither of my parents were there. I don’t even recall there being any friends of theirs there. I think my dad had to work.

            I did not want to fight. But there was no nobility in this. The classes had been bad enough, but getting the crap beat out of me under bright lights in front of all those people was a bit more than I could handle. When they called out my name for my big bout I sat there as though I had not heard it. As though it were not my name. As though I didn’t even exist. The kid I was scheduled to fight therefore won by default and went on to the next round where he was soundly beaten. Hell, maybe I might have beaten him – who knows. He was probably as scared as I was – well not quite. He at least got in the ring.

            I watched the fights for awhile, then sneaked out and killed time somewhere by myself – I don’t recall where, but it was close by so that I could see when the whole extravaganza was over and the people were leaving.

            Then I went home.

            My mother asked me how I’d done. I sullenly said I’d lost and went to my room. She certainly had no reason to question the idea of my losing a fight. History was fully on the side of my lie.

            Later mom called me into the kitchen. Norma Costanzo was there from across the street. She was one of my mother’s friends, although neither of us liked her. She was a meddler. This was not a good sign.

            “Where’s your trophy?” my mother asked.

            “I told you. I lost. I didn’t get a trophy.”

            My mother looked at Norma, then back at me. “Norma says that they gave a trophy to every boy who fought, even if he lost.”

            We both looked at Norma, who was looking way too self-satisfied for her own good or for mine.

            “Isn’t that right?”

            “Yes,” Norma said, “I heard that every boy got a trophy, whether they won or lost. I saw you come home and came over hoping to get a look at yours.”

            I stood there squirming for a short while, trying to figure out what to do or say. Hadn’t chickening out on the boxing match been bad enough? Finally, nearly in tears, I blurted out: “O.K. – fine. I didn’t fight. I was scared and I just sat there when they called my name and didn’t go up and then I left. O.K.?” and I ran back to my room.

            This is where I’d like to tell you that my mother told Norma that she was an evil meddler and to go home and leave us alone. That she then came into my room and took me in her arms and told me not to worry because everything would be alright. That she told me I didn’t have to fight if I didn’t want to and they’d never make me do anything like that again. That she told me she loved me, whether I learned how to box or not.

            But that isn’t quite what happened.

            I stayed in my room crying into my stuffed shaggy dog while she and Norma sat in the kitchen talking, no doubt, about me. The best I could expect at this point was that my father would not be told – hoping that being humiliated in front of the nosy neighbor was sufficient punishment for lying and wasting money on the boxing lessons.

            My father wasn’t told, to my knowledge.  The incident became one of many things my mother and I never spoke about again.

– 02/16-21/03

Santa Rosa

begin revisions 6/29/08

Sebastopol


Responses

  1. I felt this one. Thank you for writing it, sharing it, all of it. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

    • Thank you, Linda


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: