The great thing about winter was the boxing. Sparring with Kyle in the mornings before school helped me to chill out, and get rid of excess energy. Besides, I enjoyed hitting the shit outa the fucker. Although I took the sparring seriously, I didn't have the same killer instinct that I would've had in a real match. In a comp match, my opponent would be my enemy, and he'd receive no mercy. But Kyle? Well, he certainly wasn't my enemy… he was my best bud. But it was still fun to clobber him. Mind you, he also did his best to clobber me, but I was too good at blocking his punches, which was probably just as well. Since we'd been training together, he'd become pretty damn proficient.
"It's a fucking good thing we wear headgear," he laughed as we made our way to the showers. "Otherwise, you'd knock me cold."
"That'd be no fun, bro, 'cause then I wouldn't have anyone to spar with."
Actually, during the training session, we thought one little guy, who was sparring with a friend of his, was out cold. His friend had knocked him flat on his back. It gave one of the seniors a helluva fright, but when he checked the kid, he was OK.
Boxing for me was a way of interacting with other guys while literally keeping them at an arm's length. It also gave me the opportunity to raise my own self-esteem, and to prove that I was as good or better than they were. There was a time when I used to bully other dudes in an attempt to elevate my self-esteem, but that didn't work. All I was doing was alienating people, and I learned that being feared wasn't the same as being respected. The turnaround came when Kyle and I became friends. He respected me, and I'd never had respect from another male before. In spite of that respect, though, I'd never really been able to conquer my own deeply ingrained sense of inferiority, which was obviously the result of my father's bashings, and, more recently, shitforbrain's. If it hadn't been for Kyle and his dad… hey, I didn't even wanna think about that probability.
Carol would often ask me about Kyle's and my sparring in the mornings, partly 'cause she couldn't understand why two friends would wanna bash the shit outa one another, and partly 'cause she was curious about Kyle's motives.
"What if he knocks you flat on your ass one day?"
"But what if he did? He'd lose respect for you. Right? Think about it. According to you, he tries his damnedest to flatten you, but never succeeds. I think he doesn't wanna succeed. Not really. I think he wants you to win so that he can justify his respect for you. He wants to look up to you. Maybe he even needs to."
"You're talking crap, Carol. Kyle doesn't need to look up to anybody."
"Oh? I've seen you two guys together, and watched your body language."
"Never mind. You're a guy… and guys don't understand certain stuff."
"I think Kyle's bi."
"What if he is? Anyway, how the fuck would you know?"
"A woman's intuition."
"So what does that say about me?"
"Good question. What does it say about you?"
"Cut the bullshit, Carol. I'm not in the mood."
"You're never in the mood, Mark. You've got a head full of shit that you keep shuffling to the back of your brain 'cause you can't face it. And you hope that punching the shit outa somebody will make it go away. Well, Mark, it won't go away."
Carol was right, of course, but those kinda convos between us never got anywhere. I'd just clam up and let her rant and rave 'til she got tired of hearing the sound of her own voice. Then she'd get all cuddly, and tell me that one of the reasons she loved me was 'cause I was mysterious.
Anyway, I had to admit that Kyle wasn't sparring with me for the benefit of his health. He was there 'cause I was there. No way would he have taken up boxing as a sport, or bothered to spar with anyone else. And on top of that, it gave him an excuse to be with me in the showers. I'd need to have been a mental deficient not to notice that. In the beginning, he was pretty subtle about his gawking, but not any more.
"So… any more news about the pizza job?" he asked as he showered alongside me, making absolutely no attempt to hide his boner.
"I had to go to the restaurant last night for training. I was working in the kitchen where they prepare all the toppings."
"Like extra mozzarella?"
"Was that supposed to be a joke? Anyway, bro, you've got no idea. You just sit at a table eat the fucking shit. I've gotta know each and every pizza, what goes on it, and what it's supposed to look like when it comes outa the wood oven."
"You getting paid for training?"
"Nope. I'll get paid once I start waiting on tables."
"So if you give me a shit pizza, I can send it back?"
"I'll kill you if you embarrass me in front of anyone."
I had to laugh at his response. He was fucking impossible… and had a smartass answer for everthing.
"When's your dad coming?" he continued.
"Dunno. Haven't heard from him yet. Maybe it was a mistake. We'll see."
"You wanna see him?"
"Sort of. I'm not sure what we're gonna say to each other, though."
"You gonna take him to your house?"
"No way! He hates my mom's boyfriend, and vice versa. Anyway, my mom doesn't wanna see him."
"Does she know you phoned him?"
"Yep. And then I got into an argument with shitforbrains."
"It's got fuck all to do with him, anyway."
"That's what I told him."
If ever Hollywood decided to make a movie called 'The Naked Sherlock Holmes', Kyle would be perfect. The reason why he was so interested in every detail of my life, though, was way beyond my understanding. During the time we'd been friends, I'd hardly ever quizzed him about anything personal. Maybe the reason for that was 'cause he was just so damn open and honest about everything... so there was no need to quiz him. The only exception, that I could bring to mind, was when I'd asked him if he'd fucked Steph, and he became totally defensive. But that was a while back… when he and Steph still hadn't gotten around to it.
But Kyle had this insatiable, and sometimes annoying, appetite for knowledge concerning every aspect of my life. Why? What the fuck was so interesting about me? Jeez, I was going for a fucking job as a pizza dude, and he was treating it like it was some big deal.
"You are a big deal to him," Carol once said.
"Yeah, right. No dad, one mom who cares more about shitforbrains than she does for me, one girlfriend, and one bud. That's not what I'd call a big fucking deal, Carol."
"That's 'cause you don't see yourself as others see you, Mark. Dammit! You can be so fucking blind, sometimes!"
"Blind to what? The truth? Carol, you're not me for fuck sake."
"No, I'm not you. But I can see you a whole lot better than you see yourself. And so can Kyle… as well as his dad."
"Kyle's dad is the coolest."
"What kinda stuff does he talk about?"
"Nothing like Kyle talks about. It's not so much what his dad says, exactly, it's just the way he talks to me… like an equal. Y'know? Like when we were fishing together, sitting in the dinghy on the lake while we were on hols up the Garden Route... the silence, the early morning mist, the occasional fish rising to the glassy surface, and creating ripples that lapped against the hull, the solitude, even though there were two of us... and him just chatting about the kinda things we had in common… sport… Kyle…"
"What did he say about Kyle?"
"Normal dad type stuff… that he was proud of his son, and that he was glad I was Kyle's bud. One thing he said was that Kyle never made friends with losers. But Kyle's dad doesn't really know me. I don't think he knows about… whatever. Let's quit this convo, huh?"
"Knows about what?"
On Monday we received our exam marks. Mine were up in all subjects, but Kyle didn't fare so well. He was up in few, on par with a few, and down in a few. He was pretty pissed about his results, or maybe more worried about what his folks were gonna say, but at least he had the rest of the year to improve. These were our mid-year results. Both Kyle and I were aiming to do a post-matriculation course the following year, and I wanted him to pass so that we could remain at school together. The prospect of school without my spiky-haired bud didn't bear thinking about.
I was in a totally wicked mood next morning in the gym. "Hey, did you watch Goldberg on World Champion Wrestling on the weekend?"
"Yeah… but I prefer Shannon Moore."
"Well, I was watching the match, and visualizing something. You wanna wrestle in the ring?"
"Why not? I can beat the fuck outa you at boxing. Here's your chance to get even, buddy," I grinned.
We were only a few minutes into our wrestling match, when we'd attracted the attention of the other guys in the gym. They all stopped their boxing training to watch us.
I was honestly surprised at my own strength. Kyle was a damn good surfer, and no slouch in the muscles department, but I nevertheless managed to throw him all over the shop. Then, after tossing him into a corner, I discovered something. He was ticklish! Woohoo! The kid was completely at my mercy as I tickled him into total submission. OK, so it wasn't exactly World Champion Wrestling, but it was awesome fun.
Kyle wasn't finished yet, though. No way. He somehow wriggled into a position where he could get me into his lethal scissor grip. He'd told me about it before. When he used it on Steve, it was all over bar the shouting. But not for me. Once again, I was surprised at my own strength as I gradually forced his legs apart, then threw him all over the shop once more, occasionally using my killer, tickle technique to reduce him to a giggling wreck. By the time it was all over, we were both as hot as hell, panting, and helluva sweaty.
"That was a load of fun," Kyle laughed as we showered side by side as usual. "What made you decide to wrestle?"
"I wanted to hurt you," I smirked, then laughed along with my bud.
"You are so fucking ticklish, Kyle. How do you ever get it inside Steph?"
"Well, I'm not gonna kid you, Mark, it takes ages to get something this long into that little hole."
"Yeah, right," I said, trying to ignore his boner. "So if she tickles you, it helps you to wiggle that little thing in, does it?"
"It's not so little." He paused before adding, "Ask Carol."
Hello? What was he saying? "Huh?" Then he laughed, and I realized that he was joking. Anyway, just in case he had any more bright, smartass ideas, I gave him a quick but powerful jab, which landed right on his bicep.
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