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Different Sides of Town

(You can listen to this piece on S2E24 of the podcast)

Claudia swung her shoulder forward, gloved fist connecting with the punching back with increasing ferocity. Posters for this year’s lightweight regional competition papered the gym.

“You look like you’re in pain.” Her boyfriend dropped his backpack with a light thud. A chemistry textbook, a tablet, and a few pens were nestled somewhere in that bag. She turned her attention back to her drill and punched one-two.

“What do you know about pain?” Claudia asked.

“I know you’re not supposed to choose it. Obsess over it. Charge at it like a rhino.”

Claudia scoffed at him but didn’t stop her rhythm. An old argument, this was. She continued her punches. One-two. One-two. One-two.

“They’re other ways to earn money.”

“Of course, you’d say that,” she said, giving the bag a hard right hook before turning towards Rico. He knew she needed the money. Knew she needed this competition win to enroll fulltime into a college his father’s drycleaning business easily afforded him fulltime access to. But this wasn’t just about money, and he knew that as well.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked. “Because I’m right you know. You box until you bleed. You train in the ring until your whole body is in pain. And for what?”

“For life,” she said. She pointed at a blown up headshot laminated and plastered in the south corner of the gym.

“I know,” Rico began. She’d told him about her late father’s fame and fleeting fortune.

“You don’t,” she replied. “And I don’t expect you to. As many times as I’ve told you boxing is in my blood. That I have something to prove. But you don’t get it. Not really.”

“There’s more to life, Claudia,” Rico sighed.

“Than boxing? Yeah, for you. You come down here to blow off steam, to get a workout, but for me, this is life. Both a means and an ends.” They both were silent for a moment, letting the sounds of other trainers and gym members fill in the gap of their wanning conversation.

“I guess I should just go back to Collins Street, huh? Leave you to it.”

Claudia caught the note in his tone. Knew it was over. In a way she always knew their teenage love blossomed from a chance meeting on the train wouldn’t last forever. That this emerging adulthood would reveal how different they were.

“Guess so,” Claudia said, focusing back on the punching back in front of her. “Go back to easy street, Rico. Cause in this neighborhood, all the streets are called ‘hard knocks.’”


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