The Fight in the Kid

[This post is the kind that winds around itself and threatens to lose all who dare to follow.  I apologize, of course—but will try to bring it home.]

It starts—or ends—here, with a yellowing bruise on my hip the size of a half-dollar.  Unintentionally put there, a mistake that he didn’t realize he had caused.  If he had realized at the time, he would have switched his face immediately.  I’ve seen it a few times—a shoulder to the sternum or my hands contorted around my metal back—then the abrupt stop, the gasping gaping mouth.  The hands laid flat across my spine as I catch my breath.


Winter 2006—I was filling out one of those anonymous surveys on my stupid MySpace page.  I was supposed to be finishing a medical school application but was distracted.  By everything.

One of the questions asked, “What are you not?”  I was insanely jealous of the answer my friend Allison had put—it was so self-assured, so positive.  I thought for a few minutes before I answered.

A strong person, I wrote.


I was a feisty child, surrounded by rough-and-tumble brothers and built of a certain solid stock.  My body accumulated bruises and scars over the years—the gouge on my hand from a fight with my brother, the scars on my knees from rock climbing and dog bites, the permanently swollen knuckle and swan-necked finger that resulted from one memorable wrestling match, age 20, that required an entire month of PT to resolve.

But somewhere along the way, I lost that sense of fierceness.  I gave in to pushing touches and piercing glances.  Sucker-punched by words that were supposed to be compliments.  I felt so out-of-control.  So fucking weak.

“What are you not?”

“A strong person.”


I don’t know if he’ll ever fully realize how much he’s given to me.  There was just something about his constant challenges, the purposeful pokes that incite me.  There’s nothing like the feeling of an impending spar, the first things that make me stop and ball up my tiny fists.  I know I’ll never win—he’s much bigger and much stronger—but there’s something in the fight that thrills me.  There’s something about being pushed back and attacking again—raising my fists after hitting the floor, arching my back down and charging or kicking as I’m held above the floor.

I never had an older brother, but I imagine that this is what a childhood with one looks like.  There’s something brilliantly beautiful in the futility of it all.  There’s a certain passion that blushes up through me, that warms me up and makes me feel alive.  Alive and strong.


Sometimes, on Tuesday afternoons, I go to pilates class.  I’m not terribly good at it, but I am always inspired by the instructor.  She’s bubbly and thin, uses weird phrases for different muscles, and is unfailingly supportive.

So, one week, I push myself into a plank, and I hold there for a minute.  And she squats down beside me and places her hand on my back to steady me.

“Look!” she says.  “See how strong you are?”

And it hurts, but I nod and smile.


I will never feel invincible.  There is always something else, pushing and testing me.  There’s always a hurt or a need or an aching longing for something else.  There is perpetual stress, constant working and chronic exhaustion.  But on a Monday night, I spar in the living room of my best friend’s house, the room where I’ve been tossed to the floor and spear tackled onto the ottoman and dragged across carpet and picked up until I screamed in frustration.

It’s not until later that I notice my hip is in acute pain, throbbing from the force of being thrown sideways into a couch.  I realize that I didn’t notice it before because I was so engrossed in the fight, obsessed with picking myself back up and throwing myself back into a losing battle.  Over the next few days, a bruise blooms into the most lovely battle scar, a sore memento that I fawn and fret over.  That I’m proud of.

There are so many fights, you know—I fight to be treated fairly, I fight to get what’s mine.  I fight over silly things and important things, and I fight the world and myself equally.  And at the end of the day, worn out from fighting, I go to bed tired but filled.  Filled with a certain feeling of strength.


“What are you not?”

“A weak person.”

“Look at how strong you are.”

“I know.”

Posted by AnotherChanceTo on December 22nd, 2009
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