By Ken Baumann
The first fight involved artistry. I shoved Kurt; Kurt shoved me. Both of us thought our drawing of a TIE fighter was the more accurate one. When I sensed the teacher coming over to stop us, I pretended to hyperventilate. This procured me less punishment and more attention. Win.
The next fight involved being airborne. We were bouncing on the trampoline in our back yard, and, at my zenith, I extended my right leg straight out into Scott’s face, feeling my foot’s chunky impact into Scott’s nose. He stopped bouncing, began bleeding, then chased me. I locked myself in the bathroom before he could retaliate. Win.
The next fight involved my skateboard. I was skateboarding in Abilene’s sole skatepark, and I fell off my skateboard because I was a shitty skateboarder. My board rolled—a pleasant sound—between the wheels of a moving bicycle manned by an older teenager. The collision was unproblematic. The blond kid, years older than me, was affronted. He got in my face and said something like, “If that happens again, I’ll beat your fucking face in. I’m Irish.” I stared at him, not scared, because my father was sitting in his parked truck about thirty feet away. My father: a man with small qualms about committing crimes or destroying things. Draw.
The next fight involved a PlayStation. For one reason or another, I broke my best friend’s brother’s PlayStation while he slept. He noticed the broken PlayStation while eating a WhataBurger breakfast sandwich. He put down the sandwich, stood, and charged me. We punched one another—mostly in the torso, stomach, neck, and balls—until we tired. Draw.
The next fights involved wanting to fight. I signed up for boxing training because I wanted to know the feeling of getting punched over and over again. I also wanted to punch objects and willing humans. I trained for about six months, sparring three times a week with a 250 lb. man who wrote for television. At first, my agility and long arms were an advantage. The first time I connected a right hook to his jaw, I fell in love with the glove’s signaling thwap. And the way my fist made this nice man’s head bobble and his eyes fuzz. But because we obeyed the “don’t punch each other at 100%” rule set by our trainer, my sparring partner quickly learned that I wouldn’t—and maybe couldn’t—punch him hard enough to hurt or inhibit him. He began to routinely put me in the corner, blocking my escape with his width while punching me over and over and over again. I learned what it feels like to not be able to lift your arms, to not be able to protect yourself from assured, steady pain. Loss.
But I learned how to not fear getting hit in the face.
I learned how it feels to get my ass kicked.
Ken Baumann is. For more, see kenbaumann.com.