One of the strange habits picked up in Europe, with the US Occupation Forces, Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Parts Specialist, out of Ft. Belvoir, a teenage drunk and thief, pocked face back shoulders, hairy palms, weak eyes, a fullbore stutter, was self-confidence despite the odds.

It came from touch typing and soccer -- futball in Germany.

I was a prodigy at touch typing, probably due to the incapacity to communicate normally -- healthily interact socially, as they say of pianists and jocks other aptitudes compensated.

Soccer too, not then an American sport, the foot and leg action fit me perfectly, having no hand and arm skills except masturbation, which was a sin, a source of crippling guilt, helpless against its force, stronger than love, the sexual allure of the opposite when faced with the revulsion of women at my appearance.

The teacher of touch-typing, a DP from somewhere east of the Iron Curtain, had no teeth and grimaced with pain of an injury caused during escape. He loved to orate the quotes in typing manuals about good work habits, loyalty and obedience to authority, honoring of family, state and church. Then curse them in an unknown language, laughing hysterically like an idiot.

Only I did well, the other soldiers were there to escape regular duty, as with the sport teams, both were seen as fuckoffs -- nobody took them seriously except me.

Until then I had tried to emulate the other troops, all older than me -- I'd joined the day after turning 17 -- even pretend to shave at that time slot, without yet a beard.

Nobody took me seriously, they were all draftees, angry at involuntary duty, and figured I was a mutt. Taunting, insulting, shoving, punching, kicking, spraying beer, that was attention for me, more than I'd ever known in homeless Texas.

Moses watched this for nearly a year then, a few months before he rotated home, he offered to teach me to box. A semi-pro, he worked my ass off until he left, never a friendly word, "a nigger slaving a cracker" was the closest he came to reaching out. Then punched me, very hard, when he saw me flinch at the words. Punched me again, harder in the nose, and again when I held back and cried in fear and hurt at his attack. He hit and hit until he broke my fear, broke my stutter, broke the walls built for defense. I roared and became an animal freed at last.

He laughed and we boxed to exhaustion and went on past that place. I beat him, or he let me beat him, and asked me to stop, you got me he lied, or told a truth I still try to honor by fighting my fear when it's strongest.

There have been few fights like that, the last in college while studying philosophy. A teacher taught me to box with non-physical tools, text and thought, beat me until I had to fight back against a stronger person, wouldn't stop until I did, kept on punching, punching me senseless of what I had until then believed was good enough, but what he called fear of the unknown about myself and the world.

Typing and talking and kicking the ball are what I do, a genuine over-confident asshole.





 "Ego" © 2002 by John Young

 Original Graphic Image, "Held/Empty 2" © 2002 by Emmanuela Copal de León



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