Saturday, October 5, 2013

What's Victory Look Like?

What’s victory look like when the opponent's a terrifying force and the fight’s a slugfest that pummels the heart, crushes the soul? That’s the sized fight I’m talking about here. The kind of fight you never want, when everything is at stake, and victory’s not certain, not by a longshot, daddy-o. In fact I can show you thousands who’ve lost this fight. Just follow that winding road through the gut of St. Agnes. There they are, to the right, to the left, they’re out there. That’s what defeat looks like in this. What’s victory look like?

When I was twenty-five I started my first internship at ^%&*$#@* High School. I was sitting in the main office, waiting for my lead-teacher to arrive and bring me in. As I waited, another student-teacher entered the office. A bell above the door buzzed as she came in: good hair, good curves. I looked up, watched her walk to the secretary’s desk. She’d be working with another teacher there. I’d be interning with her. Finished with the front desk, she walked to the row of chairs where I sat, and my life was about to change.

We have so many ideas about what we’d do if given the chance to touch victory. But the truth is when life presents a fight like this, there’s nothing left but a nub when it’s done. And that nub is the only Earthly evidence that you went the distance, punch for punch, round after round after round, and when the final bell buzzed, you were still there, still here. When you fight the fight of your life the only trophy is your life.

We went together for a year then broke up. I thought I’d be better without her, sure of it. I was twenty-six and ready to be single. So off I went. Within a month, my entire life fell apart. I lost my job, crashed my car, ran out of money, was living in slum housing. The single thing, yeah, not so much fun when you’re unemployed and broke. On Halloween night, she came back to me, like a blessing, saved my life. Two weeks later, I had my car back, a better job, even all my money returned. I was nothing without her. I was everything with her.

Many people believe they’re destined to live cinematic lives, no bad could ever come to them, and they’ll be the hero in every situation. We style our hair and nails and get worked up about what people think of us. We all want the cinematic life. But none of that matters. Life is survival, with the hope of having a few great moments along the way. To stay alive is the great gift, the only gift. That’s what coming through a fight shows you. Ignorance is bliss. Victory is pulling the curtain off Oz. Victory is truth.

A few months after my father died, we got married, bought a house; began a life. We exercised and ate right, did everything possible to improve and elongate our time on Earth. I'd never been happy OR lucky. Now I was both. We’d make a family and be successful in our careers, always happy, always together. We were in great shape, physically, great spirits and full of the bully bully. Ours was going to be a great life. Then it came--IT--and it was time to fight.

Victory is never enjoyed by the victor. That part belongs to everyone else. It’s the circle of friends and family that pumps fist and sips champagne when the big fight’s been fought. We all imagine the great things we can do on the heels of a heroic victory. But the real hero wants no part of that kind of fight. The real hero knows nobody "wins" a fight like this. It’s done because there’s no other choice. The real hero understands that winning back your life will forever change your life. The romance and cinema, finished. Victory is truth.

Last night I watched my wife in the bath. She sat in six inches of water, knees folded to her chest; bald head hung low on her now-sinewy neck. Two wash clothes draped her emaciated shoulders like a boxer's robe, and her wedding ring that once fit snug slides halfway down her fourth finger. She’s twenty pounds lighter and half-blinded by oozing stys in both eyes. A nub. But she’s alive and she’s beautiful. Victory...for now.

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Brian Huba

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