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A story by M
Here I was having just met my roommate and he hadn't said a word to me, other than of course, respectably, his name—not even on the 4th of July. I didn't really try either, mainly because he had made it clear that he didn't want anything to do with me, or come to that, anybody else in the house. Not even Larry had been able to break the ice and that was preoccupying.
We all got used to him being that way.
Still, to me, he was fascinating. I tried to learn from my own observations of him and I became, in very little time, a keen observer. I figured he might've been around my age, maybe older, but not too older. Sometimes, he went out for long periods of times and come back with bruises—bruises I only saw whenever he undressed before bed. The smattering of freckles over his nose and cheeks appeared to be extended to his shoulders and chest. His skin was a tone of white that wasn't pale, but still was white and beautifully so. I tried not to look too much, afraid that he might see me looking...
...and when he one night did, he stared right back at me, said nothing, and pulled up his pants.
In retrospect, I find it hard to believe that we became so close because without him, what happened that summer, absolutely never would've happened.
He fascinated me. After two full weeks of watching, I figured that seeing where he got out to, seemed like the best way to get in with him. There was a pattern for his outings, he'd go out every afternoon, or given the weekends, on morning, and come back around 4 or before dinner. Well this was a Tuesday, and I'd put down my pencil and headed out of the house, after him—as inconspicuously as I could muster, of course.
"Hey boy, where're ya going?"
I looked up to the porch veranda, the right side that was, and my inquisitor happened to be Marty— combing his hair with a fine-tooth hair comb was one of his personal quirks. There was no hair to comb through, at least not that much a full head of hair he had but wisps plastered with brilliantine and combed to the back straight, but pride was higher than reality I suppose. Beer-bellied, with a semi-permanent five-o-clock shadow and a thumb stump of he said was amputated after he had a fight with a street dog (but we all knew he'd cut it off himself when he worked as a butcher) Marty was one characteristic fellow.
"Me? well, I...I'm just takin' a walk"
Marty gave a nod and turned just very slight around and I understood there was no more to discuss here, and off I went. I put haste on my step and in no time, I'd arrived at the crossroads in front of the public library, and Cooper's General. I figured Baptiste couldn't be that far. I walked up the sidewalk passing a newsboy or two, headed left to the bakery and barber's shop, and caught with him on the curb across the street. A moment went by. I waited there for a truck to pass, and that was good for my timing. I let him get ahead, but tried to keep him within my range. The way I was to proceed, the way was, I'd stay behind, look into some shop window, or just 'minded my own business' and I never seemed suspicious, not to a regular passerby and I hoped—not to Baptiste.
There was another block of buildings to the other side where I hugged the perimeter and I had to stop behind the brick wall side of the Boys' Club, from there, to see where Baptiste was going. He adjusted his hat and looking round him, he then walked up to an old building, some two or three buildings across from the Boys' Club, and he got in.
I was confused. Why would he go there so often? Describing the building, I'd say it was right out of shape and place—with filth staining the outside. It had one entrance with a stoop and double doors that looked to be in need of a coat of paint, and other than a grimy sign reading "Admissions, 50˘" there was no other visible description for me to know what was behind those double doors.
I concluded that I'd have to find out on my own, so I slowly walked up to the building and inspected the old doors. There were old ads stapled to the doors too and one little sign said to knock first, which I did and waited. After a while, a young boy opened the door and looked weirdly at me. Clearly, he knew I wasn't from around here.
"Are you signed up?" he asked me. Form his voice I assumed he was about 14.
"I...I am kind of...lost. What is this place?"
The kid scratched the side of his head. "This" he gestured around himself, "—is my uncle's boxing gym" he said, "you sign up over there, and pay fifty-cents admission. I collect the admissions"
"Oh, I see"
"Are you gonna sign up?" the kid said, almost insistently. The facility was just in very bad shape, I could tell getting people to sign up wasn't easy, or otherwise what interested most of the little town folk.
"Can I look around first?"
The boy brightened up a bit and said I could.
The place had two floors, with the upper story used for what was the sparring palette, with space for two rings and worn out but usable equipment at the far back. I spotted Baptiste doing some warm-ups; there were another three or four young men there also doing warm-ups. I stayed behind the limit, which is the wall opening 'gym entry'. The teen boy found me hovering there and said he had a better place to see all the action. I guess he hoped I changed my mind and signed up, but that surely did not happen that day. He took me upstairs to a gallery. There were seats and I could see the entire gym and see the guys doing their warm-ups.
"This is amazing" I said.
"Yeah, it is—I come up here and see 'em fightin' sometimes "he made jabbing, "got nothin' to do back home in the summer, so I figured I'd come down here and help my uncle"
It seemed that the kid had no one else to talk to and I was probably a suitable companion to start a conversation. I didn't mind him talking to me, but I had my eyes on Baptiste. The gym, it had many windows, some of the windows were boarded up and a lot of the windows were not. The windows occupied a whole wall, and so the place was brightly lit yet the grime staining walls and the glass was visible.
"I know that guy" I said and the boy knew who I was talking about.
"Really? You do?"
"Yep, he's my roommate back at the boardinghouse. We don't talk much"
"Oh. He's not very friendly is he huh?"
I chuckled. "Naw—he ain't. Don't know when he started coming here?"
The boy shook his head. "No, but he ain't from around here either I know that, my uncle said he's good though"
Well, I knew nothing about boxing, so I of course, agreed.
"Yup, I think so too—I seen a lotta men boxing and he's good, not as good as them Negroes but he is"
I blinked, mesmerized as Baptiste stepped into the light of the large window wall of the room, he moved so easily, in his own world. Boxing is a lot like dancing, and God I could watch him forever, 'dancing to no music'. I wanted to be part of that dance.
Thanks for reading yet the second chapter, hope you enjoyed.
I know the story is developing slowly, but trust me it needs its time.