In The Ring (a short story)

She pushed her way through the roaring crowd and fought to keep her balance so she wouldn’t get knocked over by the men in the stands, shouting, cheering. An odd crowd, she thought, for half the men and women were dressed in formal trousers and skirts with tweed coats, while others were in plain khakis and unkempt, unbuttoned dress shirts with their sleeves rolled up to their elbows; she’d never seen people of different classes mix to such an extent in her life.

She kept getting pushed around by the people in her way, for they did not notice a woman with this small a frame walking by them; they were too preoccupied, watching what was happening in the ring.

Eager screams and cheers of the crowd filled the stadium with power and shared positive energy. No true conversation seemed to be taking place anywhere, for one would not be able to hear another over the voices of the people.

“Excuse me,” she said, “excuse me, please,” as she continued on her way, looking for an opening in the crowd. She reached the end of a row in the stadium and stood up on her toes, trying to lengthen her small body as much as she could so she could have a view of the ring to which everyone’s eyes were already glued. All the men and women around her were standing up. She craned her neck this way and that, but could not see over the heads and shoulders of these people.

A deafening bell alerted the stadium, but the cheers got even louder; the end of another round. She wanted to see what was happening.

She climbed onto an empty and tattered auditorium seat that had been abandoned by its occupant due to uncontrollable excitement that would not be retained, sitting on his backside. The wobbly seat was old and would fall apart any moment, had she been any heavier than she was. She put her hand on the shoulder of the man who was standing in front of her to keep her from falling. He didn’t seem to mind, but that was mostly because he didn’t notice.

From this view, she could see to the farthest reaches of the humongous stadium, packed with more people than she had ever seen all at once. In the center of the stadium, she saw a square stage with the imprint of a star on it, surrounded by four padded poles and elastic wires.

In the ring, she saw the match referee wearing dress attire and a bow tie, intensely involved in what was happening inside the ring. The whistle in his hand controlled the other two men in the ring; the one that she loved dearly, and the other, who some people believed to be – and she was afraid would be – his killer.

So this was the ring she had heard so much about.

Jay would often talk about the rush he got from being inside the ring, his opponent in front of him. Never did he talk about the crowds when he was in the ring; he didn’t notice them. To Jay, the only thing that mattered in the ring was winning; he had to be standing over his opponent, people cheering his victory. He fed off the positive energy he got from winning the fight.

“Not every fight ends like that,” she’d gently said to him earlier that day. Jay would not hear of it, for he was confident in his abilities.

“I know what I can and can’t do. And I’m going to go ahead and do it. I love fighting, Aliyah. I can’t give this up,” he said gently.

She admired him for being so passionate about something other than their relationship, but it hurt her that this passion had to be boxing. She was confident in his abilities also, but what he didn’t realize was that sometimes, it’s not about how much confidence one has; it’s about what that destiny that person is meant to meet.

Aliyah’s father was a boxer too; a true fighter. But time came when he couldn’t fight against his opponent any longer. His opponent was not another man; it was himself and his worn-out body. The injuries he accumulated over his years did not seem like much at the time, but in the end, they could only sustain him for so long a life. When she was sixteen, he died from internal bleeding of previously ignored injuries.

From the main hall, Jay yelled, “It’s not my problem your father couldn’t finish his fights like I do.” She heard the latch of the main door close shut. Her stomach twisted like a soufflé that had burned horribly and caved in; it felt as though there would be no hope for recovery. On the kitchen island of their brand new home, amidst all the materialistic luxuries she had desired, she sat truly alone.

A tear rolled down her left cheek and in the silence of her empty home, she wept. Wept that her father was gone, and wept that there was nothing she could do to prevent her husband from meeting a similar fate; she wept that the safety of her loved ones was beyond her control. She wept that years ago, boxing had taken away from her one of the most important men in her life, and she wept that it might do it again.

She was upset and hurting, but she knew her support meant the world to him. She gathered her things and resolved that it was the day when she went to see Jay in a fight.

And there she was, looking down on the ring she had heard so much about. The ring that had given so much to her father and to her husband, the ring that had taken so much away from her.

As Aliyah looked on, the last whistle blew.


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