It was an ordinary summer afternoon. Most of the kids in our neighborhood had just finished playing hide and seek, hopscotch or monkey, monkey Annabelle (our local version of tag it). It was 5 o’clock , the sun was about to set and at about 6 pm most kids were expected to be home by then. This was in the 70’s where children played on the streets the minute the sun was no longer that scorchingly hot. It was the easiest and cheapest recreation at that time and we only have an hour left to enjoy our play.
My brother Xavier, who was fondly called Sonny was about 7 years older than I am. There was a time that I was like his shadow, always on tail him because our dad only allowed me to play as long as my brother saw to it that I do not get hurt that much. My dad was very protective of his two daughters and I happened to be the eldest.
Perhaps my brother had gotten bored of my clean clothes whenever I get to play. Perhaps, his definition of play was getting muddy clothes, having bruises and smelling like a dog. Or maybe he had a sudden burst of creativity that he wanted to try it out on his little sister.
We were about to go home when he called his childhood friend, Nick, who happened to be our nephew. He whispered something that made Nick look at his uncle, asking him if that was a good idea. And since my brother had always been a charmer, (sometimes to the point of being manipulative), he was able to convince Nick of his plan. I was on our way home when my brother called me and said, “Have you ever watched a boxing match? “And the first thing that came to mind was a man wearing boxing shorts in boxing gloves falling flat on his face while trying to get up and another man wearing white long sleeves and black pants with a butterfly tie around his neck is counting, waiting if the boxer can still get up. I do not know why but a knockout scene was the first thing that that came to mind.
I told my brother “yes” and he said, “Good, I have set you up for a boxing match with Ton Ton.”
I can not believe what I heard. I told my brother that I really do not know how the game works, how does one win. He then answered that it was just easy. That I just have to protect my face from getting punched. And he said it a matter of factly, like he get to be punched on his face everyday. He added that I need not to worry just as long as I follow what he told me.
Hmm. I smelled trouble.
But since I always looked up to my brother (which, I sometimes wish I didnt’ ), I went ahead and accepted the challenge. Besides, my opponent was our nephew, Nick’s youngest brother, who was also a playmate and played chess very well especially if I let him cheat so he could win.
The arena was at our Aunt Naty’s backyard. My brother and Nick had connived to have it staged there so that my dad will not suspect nor hear what the commotion was about. The other kids in our neighborhood had joined in to watch. Ton Ton’s face looked like that of a monster, about to eat its prey and I felt like a lamb about to be sacrificed.
The match started. I could hear yells of all sorts, telling me what to do. I am not sure if they were cheering for me or if they’ re enjoying the set up for the match. My brother was yelling me what to do and since I can’t hear, I tried to look at him and then
I dont’ know what happened but I think I just saw some stars and felt my left cheek hurt.
My brother yelled for a timeout.
He told me I need to learn how to protect my face. That I should learn how to fight for myself. I almost told him that in case he had forgotten, that Ton Ton is a boy and is bigger than I am. I was about to when he said, “You can beat him even though he is a boy and is bigger than you are. Just follow what I tell you.”
I gritted my teeth in silent anger and frustration. I had no time to tell him that I just saw the Big Dipper and Orion and now has a throbbing cheek because I was trying to follow what he was telling me but can not hear it.
The match continued. I think I’ve heard some kids are in favor of Ton Ton. I even heard bets and gambles in the background. What a great neighborhood we have.
Because my left cheek was still hurting, I decided that I do not want to give him the benefit of doing the same thing to its sister. I threw my tentative jabs in the air, missing him. Darn, he was quick. So quick that I started to get dizzy. The yells and cheers were getting stronger. I can still hear my brother yelling me what to do and then something hit my belly, so hard that I thought I am going to throw up.
My brother yelled timeout! In anger he told Nick that they agreed on what parts of the body should be hit. Nick reasoned that it can not be avoided because that is how one plays boxing . I was looking at both of them, now tired, and then went to look at Ton Ton. I may have imagined it but he was leering at me. The maniac looked like a leech. I am starting to hate this game, this set up and wished I never have listened to my brother. I wanted the game to be over and go home.
He must have seen it because he took my by the arm, gently, perhaps because he knew most of my body parts were now hurting and then he whispered, “Let’s finish this game and go home. Then, unaudibly, he spelled and mouthed the words, “Hit him in the groin.”
I can’t believe what I’ve heard.
He reasoned that I can not let myself loose, because they had broken the rules and started to cheat. He even added, “You are not letting him cheat on you again, are you?”
And that made me angry. So angry that I made sure this last round will be mine.
The match resumed. Ton Ton was so confident that he is going to win. While he thought he was trying to wrap me around his finger with his moves and jabs pretending to hit me to frighten me, I got the opening I was waiting for. And then
I heard laughter and yells, the loudest was from my brother. It was Nick’s turn to get angry but my brother was deaf. Ton Ton almost kneeled on the ground because of what I did. Still he was able to get up.
“You were cheating!” ” That was foul! ” yelled Ton Ton who was still in pain.
The nerve. I preferred not to tell him how many times he cheated on me when we played checkers and hide and seek. Instead I decided to just show him the difference. So I yelled back.
“That was not cheating! ”
I think Ton Ton got to see some constellations and a meteor shower. He was also touching his cheek but I decided to give him a taste of an uppercut.
I did not even give him time to blink.
“That was boxing! ”
Ton Ton was very angry. He was about to grab me when Nick said, “That’s enough you two,”
As he was trying to control spoiled sport Ton Ton, my brother carried me and raised my arm and yelled
Yells and laughter followed. I felt a different kind of high not sure if it was the combination of my smelly spectators or because I won the match.
Turned out, the bets were on me. Really, such an awesome neighborhood we have.
|I might just be tempted to try boxing again|
That evening, both me and my brother were grounded by my dad. And because I was innocent, I was not allowed to go and play outside for a week. My brother on the other hand, was not allowed to watch his favorite tv shows for two weeks.
And despite the bruises and my hurting cheek, somehow, that felt so good.
(credits to sportsmemorabilia.com for the image)