When we reach the outside of a fire station that now serves as some weird community center for crack heads, fifteen people are already waiting to get in. Within the next hour, that number will jump to about one hundred. It’s the Friday Night Knockout that only happens a handful of times a year. I’ve only ever heard it called model boxing, where pretty boys come to beat the shit out of each other in the middle of fashion week. This speaks to the general intelligence of male models.
A large man who was probably a Navy Seal in a previous life is sticking his massive hand out at me, a stack of other people’s hard-earned cash in the other. I look beyond his shoulder where Darren and Josh stand. They have already snuck around him, giving the whole “I know the guy who’s throwing this party” thing. I smash $40 in his sweaty mitt, $20 for me and $20 for Lief.
This better be good…
Music thumps from the DJ booth at the back of the room. Kids wander around holding sweating cans of beer. It’s already about 95 degrees in here even though the massive windowless room is partially empty, which does not bode well for the next three hours.
In the center of the room they’re setting up a makeshift boxing ring with thin metal poles covered in what looks to me to be pool noodles. There’s a Mexican dude with a green and red soccer jersey and braided pigtails bringing the whole operation together with a wimpy black rope. He dances to the music between his short journey between the poles.
Lief takes three pulls off a can of Budweiser and tops it off with the whisky he brought in his back pocket. “Eeeeeessshhh,” he says. I take a sip.
“Bleh, ew. Bleh, no.”
I push the can of yeasty, burning sweetness back into his hand.
The first and only time I’ve had whisky was the first time I drank ever, my freshman year in high school. Anthony Jacobs, the boy who I would end up dating for five years, was talking to another girl (who, needless to say, he did not end up dating for five years, so fuck you bitch!). Anxious, depressed, and a novice at self-medicating, I kept making ill-proportioned Jack and Cokes in the kitchen while I creepily watched them in the living room until my mom picked me up. It was not a good look.
“Have you been to this before?” my friend Hank asks.
“No, but I’ve been meaning to come.”
“It’s kind of like Zoolander.”
Hank tells me that the whole scene used to be a whole lot more “model-y” and has since become better appreciated on a niche-sized, mass scale. The crowd is varied: there’s the douche bags behind me in the button-ups who will keep screaming “Kill him!” during the fights; there’s the cigarette-huffing fags and hags, the models wearing baseball hats and sneakers, attractive boys in tank tops, and the random host of try-hard girls with heels and Chanel bags.
By the end of the night, all of us will be part of one, soupy pool.
Aaron rushes up to the stage in a suit and tie, rallying the troops, commanding that we scream and holler and get all blood-lusty. He introduces Lacey, the token ringside babe, scantily clad in a burgundy panty set. She holds no round cards and will serve no greater purpose than bouncing up and down in front of two hundred people. This was essentially the entire premise for Baywatch and that show did just marvelously. I think Lacey will have a long career doing…whatever you want to call it.
“I long for the day where I can expect to elicit some reaction from a dude by just bouncing up and down,” I tell Lief.
Lacey’s massive breasts and ample bottom undulate before us, like the warm-up routine of Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke. “That has never been my signature move,” I say. I only started wearing bras I bought in 7th grade two years ago. When I run or jump aggressively, nothing moves. Like, ever.
Aaron announces the first pair of fighters. The first gets up. The second follows, his head wrapped in some green lizard or dragon mask. I don’t know. He takes it off, jumps around the ring, and in five minutes he’s been punched so hard he elects to hop out before incurring brain damage (assuming he doesn’t have any to begin with).
Him being a real bitch incurs the wrath of the crowd. “BOOOOOOOO!” we shout, as though any one of us would have gotten up there to begin with.
The rest of the night continues in this fashion, the only difference being the varied intensity of blows and the increasingly inhospitable environs. With each passing minute, the temperature goes up what feels like six degrees. This is global warming on a micro scale. Steam rises from bodies, sweat flies off of the fighters. Lief puts a cold beer on the back of my neck and I shudder from the chill. There is absolutely no oxygen left in this room. I’m breathing in other people’s sweat particles, which is kind of like drinking someone else’s urine.
In between rounds, the DJ plays dubby rap shit that we dance to, nearly forgetting that we’re in the middle of a Bikram boxing match. They cut the music, more punches are thrown, kids keep drinking. We take breaks when we can’t stand it any longer, herding through doors to an outdoor space between buildings.
The relatively colder, infinitely fresher air feels like stepping into a meat locker by comparison. “We’re all going to get sick,” Darren assures us, standing against a brick wall while he drinks a beer.
When our body temperatures have ramped down to something much less life threatening, we walk back inside. It’s difficult to adjust to the heat and stench this room has taken on. At a certain point I think I’d be better off just sticking it out inside without spoiling me to the riches of oxygen and a cool breeze.
I debate leaving about four times until I opt to just embrace my sweaty pits, my running eyeliner, the grotesque assault of the giant man who has just walked past me, depositing his dampness onto my dampness.
More dudes get up. More dudes get nearly knocked out. They all look at each other with the same testosterone-fueled mix of total terror and the instinctual need to survive. We drink and dance and have fun at their expense. They, the gladiators and we, the privileged Romans. I don’t get it. I guess that’s part of having a vagina.
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