A fighter. That’s all people see him as.
Ibrahim lowered into the last push-up of his cooldown. The room was empty and dark. He hadn’t bothered to turn on the lights. The emergency light was sufficient.
Sweat dripped onto the floor between his hands.
Standing up, Ibrahim began to stretch. His hair was short, thick and black and curly. A scruffy beard masked scars from his time in the ring. Someday he would find a normal job and be paid normal wages. But his applications kept being met with a polite (or sometimes not-so-polite) statement, “We’re not hiring.”
Wasn’t New York City supposed to be a place of opportunity? Of new chances?
Lie-la-lie. His ringtone interrupted his thoughts, but he let it go to voicemail.
His mother had warned him that New York might not fulfill its promises, but a man hears to what he wants to hear, and he had wanted to hear opportunity and fame and fortune. So he had caught a train to New York the day after he turned eighteen.
Ibrahim stretched to the side, the corded muscles against his ribs opening and releasing the tension they’d been holding.
How long could he work here? Fighters come and fighters go. His body was already showing the wear of the ring.
“Hello,” he said, holding the phone to his ear.
The skin on one of his knuckles had cracked again. Ibrahim sucked the blood away.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes…. Okay, bye.”
He stretched his arms above his head once more, his chest expanding as he breathed in deeply.
It was time to shower and bundle up to face the stabbing winter wind and meet a friend on Seventh Avenue.
He paused in the doorway and looked at the ring. Part of him would always be in there.
That’s who he was.