I’ve been called cocky.
The guy with the cocky smirk.
The guy who has to have the last word.
The guy who likes to kid and tease.
The guy who asked annoying questions.
Through it all I had escaped being slapped, hit,
stabbed, or shot.
So at nineteen I traveled to Argentina to serve a two
year Mormon mission.
On my preparation day, I was playing basketball with my
I was guarding one of these missionaries who had earned All American
high school honors in basketball.
All of the sudden he threw his head back and tagged me squarely
on the nose.
It nearly knocked me out. I stumbled around for a bit,
holding my hand over my nose. Thinking for sure it
was broken and it would start to bleed.
It didn’t bleed, and it wasn’t broken.
After I gained my senses, I chose not to say anything to the guy.
He offered no apologies.
My only question was, “how in my long life of near misses, did I let
I began to have more frank encounters with this guy. He
happened to outrank me in time and position.
I made a point of getting under his skin.
I knew full well my
time would come to get even with him.
And it did.
We met at the Alta Club
in Salt Lake City
fifty two years later.
Things had changed.
He couldn’t remember knocking me in the
His older brother had been a real tough
guy. They brawled. The way to get tough
Is to fight tough guys.
If you can believe it, after all those years he
still had residual dark spots around
his eye socket from having his
brother take it to him.
He learned to fight. He
became real tough in the process.
His hair had turned silver.
He stood to greet me as I entered the lobby.
He was shorter than I was, because he was slightly stooped over.
He had a slight limp. I was bigger, heavier, and much healthier
than he appeared to be. He could not stand for long periods of time,
and when did stand, he leaned up against a chair.
He remarked, “look at how straight you’re standing.”
As we walked down the hall to the club’s grill, I looked over at him
and stared at his ear. I said to myself, “I could hit his
ear and lay him out.”
I was tempted.
In all my life I had
been hit directly only once.
That was by this guy.
I had a finely tuned sense of when I was in danger of being
I knew a split second before I had gone too far with my
aggressive way of popping off and joking.
I was tempted to double up my fist and hit him as hard as I could.
While we were eating, I was startled when he would intermittently start crying.
Initially, I thought he was showing signs of senility.
As he talked, it was apparent he had been suffering from acute
deprivation of intimacy with his wife of forty nine years.
As he talked about decades of insufferable marriage,
I felt like I was living through a Kofkaesque moment.
Life only got worse. He seriously contemplated suicide.
He divorced her.
He met a Brazilian woman on a dating sight. Months later
they were married. He said, “She’s not beautiful, but she loves
me.” He started crying.
I have long ago concluded that love is the only authentic experience
worthy of living in this life. All else has a start and a finish, and disappears
as soon as it appears, good as it might be.
He said the two of us had always been able to talk frankly
to one another – not that we had talked that much,
maybe three or four times after our missions.
I guess that counted for a lot in his mind.
I confessed to him there were four people
in my life that I admired and had copied,
hoping by doing so I would be like them.
He was one of them. The guy who decked me.
The guy I’ve always wanted to smash.
I wanted to be like him, yet I wanted to
knock him senseless.
How does that make sense? It doesn’t.
Or does it?
In the end don’t we want to be better
than those we most admire?
Even had I not been clobbered by him,
I would have wanted to be like and then best him.
And because he sucker punched me,
I wanted all the more to better him.
I couldn’t bring myself to telling him
I had also harbored the desire
to hit him in the face.
I knew if I did, he might start crying
He was fragile.
I’m telling you right now life is very,
We all age, but our memories do not.
They are fresh, but not profound.
So, I listened. Those memories changed.
The gaps filled in.
What I saw now saw was a different view.
He was as tough as those toughs I knew.
I tricked myself to think missionaries were
a docile crew.
I let my guard down, and boom I got
knocked from here to you.
I hadn’t even trash talked him as I guarded him.
Is he fooling me now? What if I swung at
him. Would he still be as tough as he was
back then? Would he block my swing
and hit me again?
(FLASHBACK: I’m thinking of two
times when I put on the
boxing gloves with two of the toughs.
As we sparred the first few seconds, I casually threw a left jab.
Both times, I was shocked when I hit their noses.
Their eyes started watering.
They didn’t swing back.
I was so dumbfounded I just stood there.
The fights were over.
I have long arms,
in our teen years I outgrew
They stopped growing.
They actually ended up being short,
but they both had very large noses.)
My friend started crying again.
I put my arms around him and said
everything will be OK. (That’s the phrase
I most often use as a management
consultant. I believe it to be so. It hasn’t
failed me in thirty five years.)
He thanked me for the time we spent
together. He didn’t ask for
a follow up. His routine is to
call once every ten years.
That means we’ll get together
maybe one more time.
Two more times might be
asking too much. We may not
be in any condition to remember each
other twenty years from now.
After we’re gone, no one will
know we ever met.
Tricky isn’t it.
So how did we come to live on earth
in the first place?
Because of the crazy, highly
improbable fall of the dice
in our favor.
Not even the preacher can come
up with a better answer.
Yes, I continue to feel more
and more and more an honor to be
here right now experiencing
consciousness in a body of
So live as
big as you can right now.
Don’t get bogged down with
memories that hurt you. They’re
probably subject to a lot of editing.
Do I worry anymore about
tough guys, hurt noses, revenge?
And I count my big mouth
a singular attribute.
What do I think of the guy
who clubbed me? I still admire
him. And I have no desire to sucker punch him,
if I ever REALLY did.
Did I best him in life? I’ll keep
that to myself. It’s unworthy of
our time to consider it.
Much love and kind thoughts to you all.