HORSESHOE BAY, B.C.
“Man, am I feeling my age today,” the boxer said, tossing his skipping rope on the floor in front of the windows.
His hair was short and neat, flecked with grey, and his face was the sort of tan you get from spending time outside, living — an almost rusty colour with paler lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth and running across his forehead, where crinkles weren’t touched by the sun.
The ferry hadn’t launched, but he had a sea-sway, standing in front of the big windows trying to decide whether to talk to me or the bay. He had a milk bottle of the sort you pick up in gas stations, but I don’t think there was milk in it.
I looked up from my book about body language and I guess my palms were open or my eyebrows lifted slightly, because he kept talking.
“I was boxing last night. You know, at this new place. Guy got me right here.” His hand was against his side, on his lower ribs, and there was a bit of wince left in him. “I just smiled, you know? I didn’t want him to think he got one on me. He was 22. You know.”
I had opened my box lunch and was eating, not making much eye contact. I wanted to hear the end of the story, but I didn’t want to make friends. He went off on a rant about boxing matches being fixed and I thought, “Ah, so you lost, then.”
“It was a new promoter, you know, so usually I get paid in cash, but this guy gave me a cheque for $45. I woke up this morning and it was gone. I lost it.”
This time I know my eyebrows lifted, and he assured it was going to be okay, that a cheque is a lot easier to replace than cash. But I was just surprised the going rate for being punched in the ribs is $45.
“My dad owned a boxing club,” he went on, and I could tell his drink was almost done by the way he tilted it up to try to get the last bit at the end of each sentence. “He taught me how to fight right, no cheating bullshit. He retired when he was 51.”
He put the milk bottle on a chair two seats away from me and started rifling through his pockets, pulling out a $10 bill and a dime bag of pot. He shoved the money back into the pocket. “You smoke marijuana?”
My “nope” was the first thing I’d said to him, but I said it with a smile. He shrugged, scooped up his rope and swayed on back to the smoking area just as the ferry’s horn announced we were set to sail.