The feeling comes almost instantaneously. The pain radiates in your brain, washing out the clutter as a wave erases footprints from the sand. There is never such a moment of clarity as the one gained in the sting of a fist. All the insignificant worries of the day disappear; the mind is simple and focused. Adrenaline floods the brain, senses heighten and eyes focus, no worries about the past or future plague you. Nerves spark as the body responds to the shock of the blows which flush out the waste. Time stands still as you brace for impact.
I have never experienced such a feeling of simplicity.
I remember one of the last fights I was in. I had slipped and fallen down stairs at a party, inadvertently spilling my full beer all over him. He was, apparently, less than satisfied with my drunken apology. Later in the evening I stood outside the house peeing on their air conditioner when the guy shoved me from behind, greeting me with a fist as I turned.
I remember sound dropping out and my vision tunneling in as I braced to defend myself. Decisions were simple. Punch. Duck. Lunge. Kick. I thought of nothing. Muscle memory took over as my body wrenched control of itself from my brain. I felt none of the pain from the punches as we struggled on the frost covered grass in the yard. I thought not of consequences nor of injury, my brain focused on the task at hand:
My eyes began recording memories again as I leveled my forehead into the crown of his nose, knocking him back to the grass. He shouted “Alright, alright,” as he held his nose, lying in the grass. I walked across the street to my apartment building and sat on the step lighting a cigarette, the ringing in my head continuing to block out sentient thought.
I felt alive like I hadn’t in a while. I could feel my eye swelling and my knuckles beginning to throb as I sat there smiling. When worry and fear grab hold of me, I lose control, but my instinct changed all that...removing me of my baggage and putting me in the driver’s seat.
My choice: fight or be beaten.
The same feeling pours into my brain after every fight, win or lose…calm. It is a perfect sense of tranquility, one with your pain, marveling at its ferocity. No thoughts of homework not finished, dishes not cleaned or bills not paid…just the simple, dull ache of the fight. I sit and sip High Life or bourbon with a blank stare and a slight grin, completely entranced. It is almost like coming down from being high.
The next day I wake up to a splitting headache, sore fists, black eye and bruised forehead. The euphoria is gone and the worries of the normal day take over again. But something still lingers in my brain, and it feels as if something has been lifted off of my shoulders, as if combat cleansed my brain, leaving me with a clean slate. It feels good, almost good enough to repeat.
There is no clarity like the clarity of a fight. The thrill of a punch landed and the shock of one received. The taste of your blood and the sight of his…mortal, savage and brutal, but in the same token liberating. Everything washes away, stripping you down to animal instinct and muscle memory. Simple, clear and lucid. Humanity in its rawest form.