“No, not gonna go to class tonight. I’m going to stay home and raid,” I tell Alex.
“Tonight’s not a scheduled raid night,” he says.
“Yeah, I’m going with another guild. They could use someone to try Soa on nightmare with them.”
“Hmm. Okay, I guess. Oh, actually, I’m not going to make Thursday this week. I want to try no-gi and they only do a class on Thursday. Chad is going to give me some one-on-one time.”
“Missing the raid again? And who’s Chad?” I ask.
“Remember that guy who asked us about WoW my first time at the gym? He’s actually pretty cool.”
“Ah. Geez, I haven’t been there in a couple weeks, have I? Hey, that’s kind of funny. It’s like we switched who plays games and who goes to the gym,” I say, turning back to my computer.
After the jump, an IRL duel
“Listen, you’re going to the gym with me today,” Alex says on Thursday.
“But I’m raid leader!” I exclaim.
“Tonight’s a normal mode night, they don’t need you. I already talked to Sair, he’s happy to lead. You need to stop raiding and spend some time outside. You’ve been looking pretty squishy lately,” he pokes me in the stomach to emphasize my squish.
“When I have my Rakata gear on, I’m not squishy at all,” I tell him.
“I want to spar with you.”
He doesn’t need to say any more to get me into the car. Since the beginning, my goal was to get him to step into the ring with me. He’s been correcting me about MMO stuff since day one; now I can return the favor with something I’m more knowledgable on. By punching him in the face.
“Well, well, well, look who’s back,” the gym owner, Nelson, says to me when we walk in. “What’s going on, kid? We haven’t seen you here in a while.”
“New girlfriend,” Alex says before I can answer. I remember using that excuse for him at parties when people would ask where he was. I was always too embarrassed to admit that he couldn’t hang out because he was busy playing a video game. I hadn’t had to use that one in a while, actually.
“You here for the no-gi class?” Nelson asks us.
“Nah, we were actually hoping we could spend some time over there,” Alex says, pointing to the small boxing ring in the corner.
“Yeah, I’m positive. I want to teach chubbo here a lesson,” Alex says.
“Just for a little bit, though,” I say. “Then I have to get back to, uh, my girlfriend.”
“Nice,” Nelson says. “Yeah, I think we can get you guys in for a few before class.”
Sparring is weird, because it’s not exactly fighting, but still pretty close. The goal is to work on technique and form, but that’s difficult when you aren’t throwing one hundred percent. A lot of famous and successful fighters are known for “going hard” when sparring in the gym. A lot of those fighters are also known for pulling out of fights due to injuries from training.
Our little local MMA gym completely discourages people from full on contact sparring. We’re not pros – if I hurt my hand that means I can’t type, which means I can’t do my day job.
“If you’re doing it right, sixty percent should hurt plenty enough,” Nelson tells me in my corner as I put my gloves and headgear on. “Remember, if you want the other guy to stop, take a knee.”
I see Alex’s buddy Chad giving him the same instructions in his corner. I try to catch his eye and smirk at him, but it looks like he’s avoiding my gaze.
“Okay guys, three minutes. If you still feel fresh after the first, maybe we’ll do another. Touch gloves then go for it,” Nelson tells us, setting the timer.
As soon as I see Alex coming forward, I know he’s taking this seriously. He’s moving with deliberate menace, and his face is set in a mask of focus. I can’t help but laugh at him a little.
We circle each other for a bit, feeling one another out, then he moves in and lashes out, catching me with a straight, right in the gut.
Ouch. That didn’t feel like sixty percent. I throw out a few jabs to help get some distance and try to step away.
He follows me, though, and eats one for it, which backs him up. He looks surprised at being hit.
“That was sixty,” I say to him, hoping he understands that I want him to ease up.
If he does, he ignores it, because he comes at me with a flurry of punches that all feel very strong. I take most of them off my gloves and shoulder and catch him with a counter hook.
The rest of the round plays out mostly the same, with him stalking and me moving away a lot. I could call out to Nelson that it feels like he’s swinging for the fences, but I don’t want him to get into trouble. Plus, I’m winning.
It’s in the second round that I begin to notice the effect of not being in the gym lately. The initial adrenaline has worn off; my arms feel heavy and I find myself breathing deeply. Alex is connecting more often, and his body shots are really taking a toll on my movement. Eventually it becomes Ali-Foreman; me up against the ropes, getting punched a lot.
I’m no Ali though, so a lot of his punches are getting through. An uppercut takes me on the chin, and I turn to the side and kneel down to show I’m done, happy to get a reprieve.
They always say the blows you don’t see coming hurt the most – they’re right. Alex hits me again, catching me in the side of the head. It sends me sprawling down completely on the mat. The room starts spinning.
“Hey, hey!” I hear Nelson scream, but Alex doesn’t stop, kicking me in the ribs. I manage to wrap my arms around his legs to stop any more kicks until Chad pulls him away.
I flop onto my back and stare at the ceiling. There’s a light up there that’s really bright, but looking at it feels kinda relaxing. I hear Alex screaming something about gear and learning to stop, but it sounds like it’s way far away. I thought I heard his voice break, too, like he was crying. I’ll figure it out after I take a quick nap, though. That seems like the right thing to do now. Just as I’m about to doze off, I inhale pure fire that goes straight through my nostrils into my brain.
“Jesus Christ!” I scream, sitting up. Nelson is kneeling over me, holding what looks like a small piece of chalk.
“They still got it,” he says, with a laugh.
“Are tho- are those smelling salts? What is this, 1947? Who still uses those? Don’t they kill your brain?”
“A dummy like you who doesn’t know when to cover up, you ain’t got much brain to kill. It must run in your family. You wanna press charges?”
“What? No!” I’m pissed, but not get-your-brother-in-trouble-with-the-law pissed. “Where the hell is Alex?”
“He stormed out of here and drove off. His stuff is over there,” he points to my brother’s clothes and bag. “He wants it back, he has to put in three rounds hard with me. No one knocks anybody else out in my gym without my approval.”
“Oh, man. He was my ride.” I say.
“Walk home. It’ll do you some good,” he says, patting me on the stomach.
I ask around, but no one is willing to give me a lift until later. My head still aches, and I really want to go home. With a sigh, I pull out my phone and call the only person you’re willing to admit your little brother beat you up to: our mom.
Rudy Basso, an accountant with an English degree, is living proof that your major really doesn’t matter that much. His series Farming Vader will appear here every week. You can find more of his writing (and occasional acting) at Cows Come Home.