I just spent the past fifteen minutes looking for my wallet. Coffee table? No. Bookshelf? No. Maybe I left it in the car?
So I walk up the street to the car, look in through the window at the place I normally put it. It’s not there.
And then it occurs to me that my wallet is in my back pocket, and what I’m really looking for is my phone.
I know this because “The Finalists” in the caption contest are on cartoons that did not appear in the last three issues I actually received.
This will result in the adoption of home surveillance equipment, I assure you.
Macka is a 6’4” 250lb longshoreman of a man. He’s 60 years old and wears gray sweats and a worn knit cap over his bald head. A bag of flesh hangs below his chin, giving his head the impression that it’s bigger than it is. Mostly he seems like he just hangs out at the gym, and just before 7am, when the gym officially opens, he stands outside the entrance, feeding pigeons in the parking lot. Handfuls of bread crumbs from his giant hands, dozens of pigeons all around.
Inside he leans over the front counter, talking with Justin who owns the place, or the woman who manages the books, or whoever is about to start training or just finished and is now taking off their wraps. He’ll wrap your hands for you if Justin in busy. Today he brought a book, the chapter heading at the top of the page read, “The Heart of Mysticism.”
The woman who manages the books is a dog person. I brought my dog in once and now she always asks where he is when I don’t bring him. She shows me photos of her dogs on her iPhone.
“This one’s the girly one. She poses.”
Macka huffs, shakes his head. Not a dog person.
I joke at him, “Oh, you don’t have a heart.” He takes this personally.
“Yes I do,” he says, earnestly, wanting to make clear that the size of his heart rivals that of his pigeon-feeding hands. He repeats it for effect. “Yes I do.”
A few sessions ago I came in my Boston sweatshirt, which gave Macka an opening to talk Boston, which isn’t where he’s from but he was clearly raised in one of the industrial areas of New England. He has a large Irish last name, like O’Flannagan. He likes football but not hockey. The popularity of hockey is before his time. He seemed pleased that I don’t care much for hockey either.
I put my wraps down on the counter and he offers to wrap my hands for me. “Left hand first,” he says.
As he wraps, he teaches. “Every fold, you want it snug. Not tight, because you want the skin to breathe. But you want to cover the every bit of skin. But, here.” He finishes, turns my hand over, and pulls the bandage on my palm. “So it breathes. Go get some gloves.”
Justin comes out of the office. “You want to take him in the ring?” Justin looks at me. “Just to mix it up a bit.” I get the impression he just doesn’t feel like training me today.
I give Macka the gloves. “Left hand first,” he says.
Macka fights differently from Justin. Justin speaks with his movements, and most of what they’re saying is that he’s slightly bored, that he decided early on he could kill me with one punch and my newbieism will never be fun for him to engage with. When he actually speaks, he mumbles. “See you on Tuesday” sounds like “have some cheesebread.” He’s gruff. He’s not someone you want to pretend to throw a punch at, because it will just make him restrain his reflex to crack open your face.
Macka just talks, all the time. Justin wants me to just beat the fuck out of people, any way possible, dirty so long as the refs don’t see. Macka has a different approach, he keeps saying that this is play, that I should approach it like I’m playing with the dog. He reminds me to relax, repeatedly. This is good advice.
“Why are you so intense? This is fun. Even when it’s real it should be fun. What? What? Then BAM.” He throws a punch at an invisible opponent, his arms moving faster than you’d expect for being so large.
“Now time for defense,” he says. “It’s better to not get hit than to hit. You save energy.” Then he jabs, square into my glove, and I hit myself in the face. The force is disconcerting, partly because it’s the first punch I’ve taken, and partly because I know it’s a fraction of what he’s capable of.
He tells me to concentrate on my footwork, to lead with the back foot, to never cross my step, to know when I’m “out of frame” by which he means unreachable, so I can lower my hands a bit and take a breather. “When you’re out of frame, slow your heart rate.” Then he hits me again and asks if I’m breathing.
When he throws punches, I’m supposed to swat them away like flies, not flailingly with my arms but with a little flick of my wrist. The idea is to just slightly change the trajectory. It’s like fighting in space, all momentum in weightlessness, changed by the application of a slight contradictory force. It makes sense, but not initially. My first instinct is to cower. But this fades. Soon I look forward to swatting them away.
Macka is all about space and breathing and staying relaxed. He’s a weathered old Irish yogi. I can see him mowing his lawn with a rusty manual lawnmower, with the blades that spin when you push it, and then putting his oven mitts on to take a pie out of the oven.