Morbid Love



I probably first walked into a fight gym shortly after that so I could learn to stand up to him physically because reason and honesty weren’t working, but it was more than that.

When I looked in the mirror, I saw what he saw; I was weak. And ugly. He was disgusted by me, and I was disgusted by myself. Most bizarrely, I had his voice, and face, and expressions, all of which were imbricated over my own hateful reflection.

I think I wanted someone to punish me, like a kind of self-mutilation with someone else agreeing to hold the knife. I probably also wanted to hit someone for a change, too. Reverse the dynamic. See what it felt like.

Training was rough and painful and the pain was good. The sharp report of shin on shin seemed to bleed the emotional pain, and the bruise afterward was like a witness. It was proof of the ordeal. There was no denying it, or explaining it away as something else. Emotions are ephemeral; a bruise is a fact.

Sparring itself was terrifying. It’s one thing to end up in a fight because it overtakes you, but it’s another to actually make an appointment and arrive on time. I felt I had to do it, though; I had to find the courage, or how else would I be able to stand up to Dad?

I was completely unprepared for what I found. Me and some other guy got stuck into it and for three rounds, we went at it like fighting roosters; plenty of intention, but not a lot of clean contact. It was more a matter of bruised feet and shins, a sore head and smarting knees and elbows. But the exhilaration was undeniable.

In my late teens, it was better than sex. It was more truthful and more intimate.

Most of all, while it was rare to uncover your heart to another man in the gym, we both understood that we had come to the ring for the same reason. He had his demons, I had mine, and one had agreed to stand in for the other man’s shadow.

By doing so, we had proven to ourselves that we were brave. We bore witness to one another’s strength, courage and will to persevere.

There’s no physical catharsis with a woman half your size. There’s no screaming in a boxing ring, either; you’re focused on your own feelings, not somebody else’s.

This new experience, in which the violence was so joyous and positive after it had been so destructive, was a genuine revelation. To then visit physical violence on a woman, much less a woman I loved, was perverse beyond expression.

Hitting people outside of the ring has also been necessary on very rare occasions and almost every time, it has felt really, really good. I can’t say that’s ever been the case when I’ve hit a woman.

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