The dull thud of flesh hitting asphalt echoes across the courts. It hurts, but not enough to keep me down. The bright white court lights behind my opponent make it difficult to see his face. I struggle to get back up; the world around me is spinning and out of focus. The shadow that was my opponent a few seconds ago seems to multiply by eight- a fuzzy vision of spinning limbs. I must get to him.

My opponent weighs just under 200 pounds and has been playing football competitively for the last 4 years. I am a pothead. Swaying slightly from the last bout of hits, I manage to concentrate hard enough to maintain some sort of balance.

Hearing nothing but my own labored breathing, I rush forward and attack. Aiming at the figure in the middle, I cock back and throw two quick jabs. Anticipating this attack, he leans back and avoids my fists by no more than a few inches. Knocking my swinging fist out of his way with his left hand, his right arm cocks back and lands a blow square in my face. White light flashes before my eyes before the pain sets in. My arms drop to my sides as I stumble backwards. My opponent steps forward and launches another right hook, catching me right below my left eye. The muscles of my neck scream in agony as my face is whipped to the right. I move further back, hoping he steps forward again. He does.

Eight right arms seem to be cocking back before my eyes. I must move quickly. Tucking my chin in close to my chest, I rush forward while his arm is still cocked back, my own arms holding him for balance. I use my right shoulder to push him back, and connect with a left hook to his chin. He stumbles a bit but stays on his feet. I must move quickly.

I start swinging at his chest, hoping to wind him and keep him off balance. Feeling for the diaphragm, I keep swinging, my opponent moving his hands around in front of his face stupidly, trying to block blows that just aren't there. One last good hit right below the rib cage and he keels over, face towards the ground, winded. I seize the moment. Knocking him off balance with a right hook that connects behind his left ear, I pound the back of his head down with my elbow. His knees collapse from the force of the blow and he falls.

Gasping for air, I back away. Onlookers swarm towards my opponent, ensuring his safety and willingness to continue. He will keep fighting, I am sure of this. He is almost as hard-headed as I am. Neither of us is willing to lose.

Before the pain and soreness have a chance to kick in, he is on his feet. I can't help but smile; I admire his stubbornness. Moving back to the center of the court slowly, we circle each other. He moves forward, I move back; he hits me, and I hit him. He hits me again, and I hit him again. Not even bothering to move our feet anymore, we stand face to face and trade blows like this for a while. Every movement now brings pain. My hands have been numb for a while, and my arms are almost dead as well. My face is bruised and battered and even the slightest touch feels like a swarm of hornets stinging the exact same spot. The gash between my eyebrows from when I fell is bleeding freely, the blood mixing with the sweat on my nose as it drips down my face and chest. I am broken.

The spectators have seen enough. They step between us and end the fight, shouting inaudibly as they support us both to two park benches. Still gasping for air, I open my mouth as someone pours water onto my face. The cool liquid stings my face but feels good on my bare chest. Still not able to hear or understand what anyone is saying around me, I search for my opponent. He is sitting on a bench a bit away from me, his head in his hands, his chest rising and falling almost as fast as my own. Almost as if he can hear my thoughts, he looks up and makes eye contact. I nod silently- there is nothing left to say.

true story