The Athlete


As a youngster, I didn’t like horror films, sports or cars. Everything that my twenty-something father loved. So, when I was five years old, in an effort to butch me up, my dad enrolled me in a wrestling class at Pierce College. I didn’t care one way or the other if I went. My mom would drop me off and I would learn how to wrestle/become a man.
Now, here’s where I failed at this: One of the kids (for some reason I keep thinking his name was “Kenny”) was very hyper. Even when …it was two of the other kids’ turn to demonstrate the move we were just taught, Kenny would move up and down the line of kids waiting for their turn and would attempt to do a headlock/choke hold on us. No big deal, right?

It just so happened that my father had enrolled himself in a night class at Pierce a few days after my enrollment. His class lets out and he came to check on his son’s new masculinity. What did he see? Me pressed up against the wall with Kenny performing his best date rape techniques on me.

When I finally wrestled away from this kid, all I saw is my dad looking over at me, shaking his head in disgust and then walk away. Hmmm . . . not good. Once I got home, I heard my dad and mom talking in the other room. It went something like this: “I go to check on him and he’s busy hanging all over the other boys.” I wasn’t old enough to understand exactly what was being said, only that my dad was disappointed.
Fast-forward nine years to midway through the eighth grade. I had this tough PE teacher; I think his name was Mr. Santiago. Santiago was also the football coach at Canoga High School. So, our PE regime was not that of an eighth grade class. He would have two kids hold up this pole and we would come running from one end of the gym to this pole, then vault over it, into a midair somersault and land on a mat. I tried it twice and belly-flopped both times.

Then he switched modules and we would be wrestling for the next month. I was stressing, my last wrestling experience was kind of screwed. Santiago pairs me against the biggest guy in the class on the first day. He was a skinny white boy like me; I thought I had it in the bag. He beat me.

The whole wrestling thing messed with my head. My dad was disappointed in me and now the coach was too. I made this weird goal in my head that I was going to beat that skinny white boy, either on the mat or outside of school. The loss, screwed me up a bit. A week later, after Santiago paired everybody off, he asked if anybody wanted to wrestle. I jumped up, and then he asked who I wanted to wrestle? I pointed to the white guy. I wrestled like this guy robbed my family and burnt our house down and left our dog pregnant. I pinned him in about twenty seconds. The guy was shocked and the coach high-fived me.

I’m not sure why I was so worked up about winning, but I was

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎lifewontwait


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