No Choice but to Love (Episode 4)

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I winced as I hit the punchbag again. I did my best to block out the pain and continued my hits. I had to. That was the only way to not remember; to stop the flood of memories. I hit again and again. I was sure I would have bruises and aching finger joints by the time I would be through: if I let myself be through. I could have been hitting the same bag for hours but I didn’t care. I wanted to be so tired that I would not remember a damn thing. I just wanted to forget.
I wanted to forget her face, her eyes, the simple but elegant gown that she had on as I opened my door. I did not want to remember the flash of hope in her eyes as I called her ‘Pam’. Stupid me! I was the only one who called her ‘Pam’ and after the… after what happened, I resolved in my heart I would never give her that gift again. That plan abandoned ship the moment she arrived on my doorstep and I set my eyes on her again.
God knows I wanted her back. I needed her back like a man stuck in the Sahara needs water but could I risk it? I was not even sure I wanted to risk it. I continued striking at the bag. I did not even know when I had ditched my gloves and switched from punches to palm strikes, elbow jabs, forearm hits and even kicks…in a boxing gym.
One particular ill-timed strike later and I overreached and stumbled. ‘Shit,’ I cursed as my face got ever closer to the hard, well-worn floor.
Just before I had a face-to-floor touchdown a strong and wiry arm arrested my fall. I was breathing really hard and I could feel my heart pounding away in a rush. I got back up and looked at my helper. It was the owner of the gym. I made a move to prostrate in greeting when he motioned me back up.
‘Don’t bother.’ He fixed me with a stare that made me feel as if he was stripping bare all my defences. I immediately became wary and averted my gaze. There was no way I would win in a staring contest against him and it is also considered rude to stare at the elderly in the eye.
Concluding that I was done for the day, I walked to the bench where I placed my gym bag as I unwrapped the bandages from my hands. I felt slight aches in my hips as I walked. Must have been when I decided to switch to kickboxing and mixed martial arts: things I had only seen on television. It was definitely going to be a sore night for me.
As I took out my water canteen for an overdue drink, the owner of the gym, Mr Jones, was at my side. Before I could ask him what I could help him with he said, ‘Whatever is eating you up inside is not worth holding on to and punishing yourself the way you are doing.’
I stared at him for one long minute. ‘Even if you think it is necessary, the bag doesn’t deserve it.’ I almost laughed. Almost.
Different thoughts flowed through my mind. ‘Was I that obvious?’ I mused. Of course, I was obvious. I had been moody ever since Pam… Pamela’s visit. For God’s sake, I have a PhD in Behavioural Psychology. Anyone with half a brain would know I was obvious. Obvious about what would be anyone’s guess.
A couple mouthfuls of water and, ‘It‘s a woman, isn’t it?’
I nearly spat what was in my mouth out. What is with the elderly and that seemingly omniscient trait anyway? I looked at him again and he had this faraway look in his eyes and what I could have sworn was an all-knowing smile on his face. I wanted to tell him to mind his business but I suddenly felt tired and the need to throw the weight off me. I made to speak but he placed a hand on my already tired shoulder and shook his head with that same smile that made me feel dumb.
‘Now’s not the time, my friend,’ He said sagely. ‘You’ve used quite a lot of energy. Go home and relax. Some other time we can talk about the necessary and ancient trouble that is women.’
He laughed at his own joke as I chuckled along. I felt deep within me that I might get some ‘old-people’ wisdom from him the next time we would meet. I packed my things and was about to call it a day when I heard a rip behind me. I turned and could not help but be shocked. There was a tear on the bag where my fists had hit repeatedly and sand was coming out of the object of my frustrations. I groaned and took a side glance at Mr Jones.
The man burst into laughter. I could not help but laugh as well. It dawned on me that the bag had taken one punishment too many at my hands and legs.
‘I’m so sorry, Mr Jones. I’ll pay for another one.’
‘You don’t need to,’ he said with a wide smile. ‘I’ve had that one for over twenty years and there are a lot of stories attached to it,’ he said as he fondly caressed the bag like an old girlfriend.
‘Besides, it is not something duct tape can’t fix. Go on. We’ll see next time.’
‘Thank you, Mr Jones.’ I had a grin on my face and felt several kilograms lighter and more relieved than any amount of physically abusing the punchbag could have helped.
I heard him laughing loudly as I got to the exit. I grinned to myself as I got on my motorcycle and headed home. Despite the momentary uplifting, I still could not help but think about Pamela’s visit and everything that transpired between us in those few hours. As I rode back to my flat, the thoughts constantly filled my head.

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