.

I walked into the 5th floor Chelsea loft space and my senses were instantly stimulated. The lack of air conditioning made the pungent scent of sweat even more potent. The repetitious thuds of vibrating bags being hit sounded like automatic guns. Jump ropes smacked against the wooden floor, echoing the pulsating drums of distant salsa music. Grunts and heavy breathing filled the remaining space of the growing cacophony.

The bell rang.

One beep for a thirty-second warning before the round would end. Then, the double bell chimed, ending the round.

Silence.

A one-minute break. The only sound I hear is that of my heart beating. I notice the heaviness of my breath as the taste of blood fills my mouth. I closed my eyes when he punched me. How could I be so stupid? Panic sets in, and my only thought is how to get out of here, how to make it stop.

But now, the dissonance has quieted. A once torturous act of sparring has become like a game of chess. Everything slows down as I predict his next move. I notice what makes him vulnerable, so I attack his weakness. I remind myself that I am not without flaws. He too is paying attention. We respect each other and fight through the deafening sounds…