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Detra’s story

Part 10

“My first night in the shelter I found a folding chair and sat with my back against the wall. I needed to feel something solid against my back. I didn’t know if there was going to be a bottom that I could hit, and bounce back up. Or if it was just going to be darkness and I’d never come out again. I was scared. But I was also angry. I felt like my identity had been stolen. From the time I was two years old, until the night I entered the shelter, somebody else had been in control of my life. Each day for ‘check-in’ the women would line up against a brick wall. But I never wanted to be in that line, so I would walk around the neighborhood until the last minute. One day I noticed that a boxing club had opened a few blocks down. They were offering trial lessons for $40, so I decided to go see what it was all about. There weren’t many athletic clothes in the shelter’s clothing closet. So I came to my lesson wearing faded blue men’s swimming trunks, an oversized T-shirt, and my black Starbucks work shoes. The owner’s name was Martin. And one thing about Martin, is that he’s always saying ‘kid.’ He took one look at me when I walked in the door, and said: ‘What’s your greatest fear kid?’ I told him I had a fear of defending myself. Because as a child I’d been abused by men in our church, over and over. And if I raised my arms to defend myself– they abused me worse. I asked Martin if we could maybe start with a speed bag. But he told me they didn’t have a speed bag. He threw me a towel, and said: ‘Get in the ring, kid. I’m about to change your life.’ He had me doing exercises named after animals: crab stuff, and bear stuff, and duck things. I thought I was going to die. The whole time he was telling jokes. They were bad jokes, but he kept me so scrambled that I forgot about my fear. That first day he taught me how to do the ‘jab, jab, cross.’ Two jabs with the left, and a cross with the right. And I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the hitting. When we finished Martin asked me when I was coming back. I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have any money. He said it didn’t matter. He called out to the person running the desk, and said: ‘Hey! Put this kid on my list!’”

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