By Andrew Ramirez
I ought to listen. That streak-free, Windex clarity that comes with Monday is maybe telling me a few things, like: Young man, why don’t you take it easy?! This weekend it wasn’t just Pacquiao and Marquez putting dents in one another’s faces. I felt like I got in on the action too. After it was all settled, let me tell you, a bloody-faced Pacquiao may have edged a black and blue Marquez, but I wasn’t feeling so hot either.
Packed like Spanish olives in a standing room only bar—Big Wangs—downtown, my roommate and I watched the big screen as a decision was announced and Pacquiao lifted both arms to the air. Big and heavy beer-soaked cheers erupted throughout. Myself, a proud Marquez-rooting Mexicano, withheld any congratulations while a tear rolled down my greencard-carrying Filipino roommate’s cheek. On TV, a trainer squeezed a sponge all over Pacquiao’s sweating, bleeding, smiling head. My roommate ordered another round of Margaritas, chicken wings, and nachos. My stomach turned, my mouth salivated something sour, and head spinning, throat swelling, I was thinking: I could dig a little of that sponge, too.
I woke up the next day with that rot-tooth taste in my mouth. Crouched before the mirror, gulping at a line of water from the faucet, I was wondering how things went so wrong. For one, it’s that I’m trying to save money by eating pasta. And as economical as dumping a bucket of Ragu over way too many noodles may seem, it’s only a good idea if you take an immediate nose dive into the couch, and by no means ever a good idea when you find yourself, twenty minutes later, standing shoulder to shoulder in a jam packed bar, trying to keep from drowning in the deep end of a king-sized stein of Grolsch. I mean, all those people, all that pasta and pilsner, and two Welterweights making messes of each other’s faces for a full twelve rounds? It’d made any stomach teeter on the edge of pure insanity.
But look—my stomach’s cross-cultural west Texas tough, more tolerant than most having been steeled on Starship Troopers and deep dish pizza (give or take twenty pounds) and one triple digit burning summer in 1997. So this past Saturday when one undercard fighter—clearly behind on the cards—undid his opponent with a last minute fury of jagged-edged uppercuts, I raised my glass and drank, drank, drank. But inversely, it’s that same gun-toting, lasso-twirling inner Texan who had me gulping for air, demanding a wide open space upon Marquez losing to this smiley-faced Filipino hero.
I was burning for an exit, bumping into a shoulder on my left, another on my right, backing up ass first into some crotch behind me and accelerating crotch first into some ass in front. All that pasta came to a rolling boil in my stomach.
Squirming and squeezing, I ducked head first into various alleys in the crowd and it eventually paid off. Two fat guys parted like a heavy velvet curtain, revealing a door. I blew through it and gulped at air. I felt better, deflated, and stretched both legs out into a wide V. There was even a thirty-something-year-old hipster girl leaning by the heat lamp outside, wearing a scarf and drinking something pink with an umbrella in it. It was cold outside, and in place of the fuzzy heat that was at my throat seconds earlier, I felt myself shivering and went over to the heat lamp.
I made a joke about my hair catching fire. She laughed.
“I wanted Marquez to win,” I said.
She looked white but maybe she was just gueto like me, and she said, “Me too. Nice to share a heat lamp with you.” And then: “Rochelle.” We shook hands.
A wild idea snatched hold of my mind. I didn’t care about boxing anymore or my Filipino friend singing along to the Filipino national anthem inside. You know that gut feeling their always telling you about? That one. Follow your gut, they say. Trust your gut, they’ve been telling you. Well my gut brought me out here, a result of some tension in my gut, some anxiety, and it pushed me out into the cold, to this, and look at this, look at this, I believe that’s a sign I finally followed.
Rochelle downed the pink drink and nodded her head at me. Placing the empty on a nearby table, she spun around and I almost called to Wait!, until she went face first, with all her advanced thirty-something-year-old heart and love, into the arms of a similar thirty-something-year old man wearing a matching scarf and the cockiest smile slashed across his face, like: I know what you were thinking, fucker. How’s that gut feel now?
I went like a statue, but not frozen because that heat came back on me. For a second I thought my hair really had caught fire on that heat lamp. Then the pasta started roiling in my stomach, and the involuntary heaves came on like a kitchen light. I heaved once, twice, a third time, but all I had was air.
“Are you all right?” Rochelle said.
Her boyfriend smiled, waiting.
All that substance, all that stuff in me, and all I had to show for it was nothing.
I went inside and listened to commentary, watching replay after replay of the fight that was lost.