About a decade ago, after I’d finished my post-fight interview with Bruce Kivo of “MMA Confidential”, I began to collect my gear to head home. It was after one in the morning. I was in Manhattan for my fight. My husband was just getting to bed, and our two daughters were fast asleep back home in suburban New Jersey.
As I packed my things and threw a pair of warmup pants on over my fight shorts, I saw a fighter I knew. I’ll call him “The Section”, ‘Sect’ for short to protect his anonymity. Sect had come from my team to watch me. He looked a bit lost. The place that the fights had taken place in was now practically empty.
Bruce was wrapping things up behind the draped in area. Some fighters from the Midwest were ready to leave as they’d gotten their gear together. I looked around and caught my teammate’s eye. “Hey!” I called him. His eyes lit up as he walked over to me.
“Hey Jody. Do you know where Phil is?”
“Well, the two guys I came with… Um. They left.”
“No. I’ll tell you why they left without me.”
“I’m not supposed to drink.”
“Well, you know I’m on probation.”
“Yeah. And you have a lung issue, too.”
“I had a beer.”
“Okay. So, what’s the deal?”
“Are you sure Phil left?”
“Oh yeah. He said ‘goodbye’ to me like twenty or thirty minutes ago after my interview, as I was speaking with an undercover officer.”
“Yeah. I saw him packing up fight gear and parting.”
“What do you need?”
“I guess I should go drinking with those guys from Minnesota. They invited me.”
“No. Don’t you want to get home?”
“Let me take you home.”
“Where do you live?”
“I live ten minutes from the gym in New Jersey.”
“Oh. I can’t do that to you. I live in Connecticut.”
“I’ll take you to your home. My husband will understand.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“No. Norm’s a good guy. You need to be safe.”
“Yeah. I’ll just text my husband. My van is in a parking garage right around the corner from here. Your safety is my priority kiddo.”
“Yeah. Phil would have brought you home if he knew what happened to you.”
“Yeah. He’s a good guy.”
“Yeah. Follow me.”
Sect and I turn corners and open doors and get outside on the main drag. “It’s one block up. Follow me.”
We soon arrive at the parking garage. I hand a man the ticket for him to retrieve my minivan. The man pulls up in my van. I hand him a tip. “Here you go buddy.”
I turn to Sect, “Okay get in. Buckle up. Tell me your address.” As Sect does, I text my husband, ‘I’m going to be home much later, like 4:15. I got a guy on my team, whose friends left without him. He resides near Danbury.’ Norm responded, ‘Okay. Be safe.’ I text back, ‘Will do. Thank you Honey.’
I part out of the garage and begin to drive out of Manhattan. Before I know it, I’m driving on dark highways with barely a car near us. We begin to talk. As Sect texts his buddies. They are scolding him via text. I told Sect, “Don’t respond. They’re not your friends. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you what I saw two months ago at your fight in the Bronx. I sat next to asshole number one.”
I can see Sect’s expression out of the corner of my right eye as I drive. “Really?”
“Oh yeah. Phil sensed something too. Something he didn’t like.”
“Oh yeah. First neither of them understand you. Second, they don’t know the fight game. And asshole number one was shooting his mouth off while you were fighting that night. I wanted to smack him. Yet, I remained calm and quiet.”
“What was he saying?”
“He was putting you down and he felt he could coach you better than Phil.”
“Oh yeah. I ain’t kidding. He wasn’t there for you that night. He was there to tell you that you were nothing. That he knew everything. I listened to him before, during and after your fight.”
“Then why did he and his other friend want to go with me to the fights tonight?”
“Because you weren’t fighting. And because fighting is cool. They also knew you’d feel somewhat tortured because of your health issue that you could only watch the fights and not be in the cage fighting.”
“Wow. I had no clue.”
“I’m telling you the truth. People get jealous for stupid reasons.”
“I can’t believe you are going ninety minutes out of your way to drive me home tonight.”
“It’s my pleasure. As Phil would say, ‘we take care of our own’. If Phil knew what happened tonight, he would’ve drove you home. He thought you had a ride.”
“Well, I did but I screwed up.”
“By having a beer?”
“No. By having bad friends. That’s not your fault.”
“Jody if you hadn’t been there tonight, I’d been arrested.”
“Probably. Or worse.”
“But hey. We all have our demons. Nobody’s perfect.”
“That’s what I don’t get.”
“The guy who came with me to watch my Bronx fight. He thinks he’s perfect.”
“And that’s what makes him so much less perfect.”
“Yeah. You know you got guys at the gym who enjoy you and are sometimes motivated by your intensity when you train. Did you know that?”
“Yeah. Phil loves having you around. You matter.”
“Should I feel okay about what I did tonight?”
“Hey. So, you did something that wouldn’t help your health. Let it go. Learn from it.”
“Yeah. Seriously. Forgive yourself. Start over. Tomorrow’s another day.”
“You got it.”
About a mile or so from Sect’s home; he has me stop at a Quik Mart as he wants to get something to eat. I don’t go in with him. I must trust that he will get what he told me he would. That’s a step I’ve learned about letting people hit the gutter and how they must learn to bounce back up into a better life if they can. You can’t always fix a mentally ill addict by yourself. I know, I experienced that as a child of parents who had mental illnesses and addictions.
Soon Sect gets back into my van with a brown bag that appears to hold a hero sandwich and a bag of chips.
“Got what you need?”
“Okay. Direct me to your home from here.”
Sect explains, soon we arrive at his driveway. He’d forgotten his house keys. We hear his dog barking. I give him suggestions as to how to get into his home without keys. I see the design of the early 1980s model home. He tells me he will call me when he gets in.
“Are you sure? I can wait.”
“No. I don’t want to do that to you.”
“Okay then. Let me know when you are safe inside.”
“Okay I will.”
We said goodbye then I leave his driveway. About eighty minutes later I’m home at about 4:15am. It’s dark and quiet yet I’m wide awake. No message from Sect. I text him. I wait five minutes, no answer. Getting a little nervous. I then call him, he picked up.
“Hey. You get in?”
“Oh yeah. Sorry I didn’t call.”
“Yeah. You had me worried a bit.”
“Well, I’m going to be honest with you. I bought a beer at the Quik Mart when I said I was getting something to eat there. I had the beer after you left.”
“Okay. I’m glad you’re being honest with me. Tomorrow is another day. Start over. This isn’t supposed to be easy.”
“I’m such an asshole Jody. You really saved me tonight. Why?”
“Because you’re a good person.”
“But I just had lied to you and bought a beer and drank it.”
“So. You still deserve a chance.”
“Don’t condemn where you’re at now. Being sick and unable to fight sucks. I get it. Just make another attempt to be clean. That’s all.”
“Are you going to tell Phil?”
“I’ll let you tell him. How about that?”
“Thank you Jody.”
“You got it.”
Sect was the kind of guy who not only had mental illnesses, but a plethora of them. He also didn’t have a father figure around, especially when he needed it the most. He had these sad puppy dog eyes that made you want to adopt him. He had an incredibly gracious heart. He was an overly compassionate kind young man.
He was the kind of kid that if you pictured a three-year old, lowly yellow lab needing adoption in a rescue shelter, the eyes would draw you in. You’d have to adopt him. He’d mean well. Yet make mistakes like knocking over a 300-year-old vase you’d just inherited with his tail wagging because he was just so happy to see you.
And as you’d see the inherited antique vase that dear old Great Aunt Suze bequeathed you rock, tilting on the edge of your new coffee table. That crotchety old bitch Great Aunt Suze the most unforgiving wench, which whom you’d smiled for as she thanked you for taking care of her fourteen-year-old cat named Squint, whilst she was in the hospital for three days. Squint? Named for as it always appeared to be up to no good with an evil eye.
Too, it was those dreaded moments you’d put up with. Like when your parents made you visit Great Aunt Suze and give her moth ball scented lily of the valley eau de toilet a hug. Because they said she needed children. Which she stated she hated children. But you were always the adult child she appreciated for taking care of Squint at her home that smelled of moth balls like her.
As the 300-year-old vase rocked off your new coffee table and shattered into a thousand pieces. You’d say, “Oh thank God. That was the last of her.” You would hug and dode over, greatly appreciating the unconditional love that the spunky grateful three-year old yellow lab you’d adopted delivered to you. For he was the ray of sunshine in sometimes a hopeless world.---Jody-Lynn Reicher