This all started when Niall grilled me about which athletes have the best bodies. “Fucking fighters,” he said. And contemplating his decorated amateur boxer bod and the many times he had flexed his bodacious biceps for me, I agreed. Niall is ridiculously hot. Hotter still when I imagine him in silky shorts, topless, sweating and beating blood outta someone like a brutal poet of hurt. Since grade four when I first watched Gandhi the movie, I loved Gandhi the man. He just had a way about him–this ability to conquer his tyrannical equestrian English overlords with the powers of his heart and mind. Sweet Gandhi: prophetic peaceful and awe inspiring. However, how-eh-ver. . . if Gandhi were my boyfriend and we were at a coffee shop and he were holding my hand and whispering in my ear about the zenish merits of turning the other cheek, when along came a winking Oscar de la Hoya–a de la Hoya who asked me to meet him in the washroom downstairs just so he could touch my pussy a little–I’d break Mahatma Gandhi’s heart in a snap over my knee like a bamboo peace-pipe. And then dash to the washroom my mouth eagerly salivating–well c’mon! I’d wanna suck Oscar’s cock a little too: he’s de la Hoya. Have you seen that man? Ha-ot! My desire for a fighting man downstairs and a thinking man upstairs made me ponder shit. Yes shit. About all the shit I had doled out to my boyfriends. The harder I pushed Noah away, the more I turned him down in bed, the more I complained about his music, the way he dressed, his porn, the more I got. I got a violin, a trip to the Bahamas, my weight in magic mushrooms. I didn’t even have to keep myself fit or anything. I just had to bitch and moan and I got. And Noah isn’t alone. There’s Jake, and Kyle, Nelson and Sam, Brian and Richard, and Tom. Common thread: shit and love. The more shit I doled out the more love I got back. I hurt and I hurt and I hurt some more and in return I got essays written for me, free booze, sex when I wanted it, clothing, concert tickets, a snowboard, and a most invigorating ego-boost. Ah! There’s nothing like unconditional love. As long as you’re not the poor sap in love. And then I fell in love. But that wasn’t enough. He fell out of love. And I was hurt. The kinda love-hurt that transforms you into a waste case. Today, I am the nice girl. I’m also a very single girl–a very single girl expert in the art of self-love with a broken vibrator and an injured index finger. I can’t hurt a soul. So when Niall tells me I should take up boxing, I think maybe a hard bod and hitting are not such bad ideas. I decide to model myself after Oscar de la Hoya, Oscar de la Hoya and Niall. When Niall says, “You should go to Atlas to learn how to box,” I go to Atlas. And when Niall says, “Those fucking gloves you are using are toxic pieces of shit,” I take his advice and buy a train ticket toMontreal to get some Rival bag gloves. And when he asks, “What the fuck does everyone find so fucking funny about shoveling Kian’s roof to spar?” I laugh. Mistake. I am shoveling Kian’s roof, right now. . . while they watch. Niall–Niall is telling Kian a lot of stories that involve the word fuck. Fuck he’s doing it in a sexy way. Tell me. What could be wrong with wanting a piece of that? There, on the roof, my blue toque on, my deltoids twitching and me, doing my best boy impression taking breaks to talk about surfing porn on Xtube and smoke cigars, they start talking about the past. Kian says, “Niall. School is BS anyway. The most useful thing I ever learnt was when my gym coach told me sex was like basketball: You always dribble before you shoot.” Niall laughs hard and loud and feels better about when he dropped out. He says, “Yeah. But I don’t fucking know. Lately everyone around me seems so fucking stupid that I think I’m smart. Like I’m smarter than everyone.” I pipe up, “Well you are. You are. You could have done university like me easy. I just don’t think you would have liked it because it’s full of wankers. There are stupid people everywhere. But, you’re intelligent. I think you are one of the most intelligent people I know.” And it’s true, I do. There was this one time when he drove me home. We were just sitting in front of my place talking and you expect him just to be this dumb mook ex-boxer guy but he said, “Karma! If one more fucking person says to me it’s my fucking karma like that’s a good fucking system to go on, I’m gonna hammer them straight in the fucking head. What the fuck is that? Karma! It’s from one of the most oppressive fucking fucked systems–what’s it called?–caste system. Fuck karma.” I’m not totally with him, but still if you take away all the fucks it’s a pretty enlightened opinion, I think. And I don’t mind telling him so today. “Well. . . I mean. . . . Fuck!” he turns away and fiddles with my shovel. “I wasn’t trying to get you to say that I was smart or anything.” And he’s kinda blushing. And I think, wow, I just made this really tough guy blush. Like I have the upper hand. That’s about all of the softness that Niall can handle. He jerks Kian’s shoulder, “We got a place to fight now. Get in there man!” Kian takes off his jacket and under his tight shirt all is sinew–a bigger version of me. Kian gets into our make-shift ring. Niall doesn’t look at me. But I look at him. I’m going to get my ass handed to me for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Niall shouts at me from the sides: “Get in your stance! What are you doing later anyway?” Kian’s circling me. “I’m going to a cougar and cheese party,” I say and throw out a jab that Kian catches too easy. “I’m a fucking cougar.” “You’re not a cougar, Niall. You can’t be.” “Yeah I’m a cougar. I am. Me and Kian are coming.” And then he does this thing I hate. He gets my attention by waving and sticks out his chin and closes his eyes. Like I couldn’t even hit him if I tried. And he calls me, “Boxing sweet-heart darling baby, baby baby baby.” I try to hit Kian so hard and he slips the punch. I hate Niall. But I want to make-out with him so bad. I want him to touch me the way he used to. It first happened when I got back from Montreal. I was bummed. Bummed by the girls that I know. Don’t get me wrong, they make good friends, I just would never let any guy I know date one of them. Marla was born to cheat. It’s all she does–with every boyfriend. And now her husband. These poor guys, they never know. But the worst is when her and Sheila get together and try to teach Rory and I how to cheat. “One. You never document it.” This is what Sheila and Marla say to a tearful Rory who’s just been caught. He read her diary. I think, “Who keeps a diary at this age?” Marla goes on and on about some masseuse she met at a bar, about the etiquette of who pays for the hotel room, about when to break it off. Sheila nods and opens another bottle of Shiraz. But the best is when Marla and Sheila look at me and Roar and say, “Men deserve it. They’re scum.” And just then the perfect masque of middle-class marriage begins. Colin comes in with Attie asleep on his shoulder. Marla kisses him and tells him to get a glass of wine while she takes Attie to bed. We all chit-chat: “Colin how was the dinner? Was Attie good? Oh my goodness! Did she really try to bite their little boy? How terrible. Poor little guy. Is he okay?” I wish someone would punch me in the face. When I Facebook all of this to Niall he’s with me. He’s just as sad and disgusted as I am, and even understands at the same times and in the same ways that I do. He starts to tell me about his girl. About how she wants him to get a job and how she rags on him for never finishing anything he starts. She even brings up getting an education. Anyone who knows anything about Niall knows that’s just not fair. “You know I think you’re awesome,” I write. “Yeah. Well I think you’re fucking hot.” I take the opportunity to express my undying love, “So we’ll anal when I get back?” The message on Facebook when I finally get home: “You filthy filthy girl.” I blush. And then every time I see him he touches me. Touches my knee. Touches the back of my neck. Whispers things in my ear. Once when I was standing at his kitchen sink he came up behind me and cupped his hand on my ass and then ran his other hand up my inner thigh. I almost cried it felt so good–so soft it stung. I can still feel it. But today that’s not what I get. I get Kian chopping down trees. Uppercut, left hook. Uppercut, left hook. Until my head is ringing and I warble, “Could someone please. . . pick up the phone?” As Kian picks me up off my knees and Niall yells in my bleeding face, “Don’t you fucking take a knee on me bitch. Get up! Get up!” I think of De la Hoya. I think of the photos I saw of de la Hoya in drag. I tell Niall as Kian lays me back in the snow to see how bad my lip is bleeding. “Whatever. Have you seen de la Hoya’s wife? Who the fuck cares if that guy wants to wear fishnets and wigs? He has balls big enough to do that shit. What the fuck are you watching that shit for? Leave de la Hoya to me. You should be watching Jorge Arse who hits to hurt. He’s little, fast, precise. Fucking technique is what you need at your size to get you ready for your fight. Besides, he sucks a lollipop before a fight–he’s a fucking girl.” He chuckles and rubs my head like I’m his little brother. This is how it’s been since he got things back on track with his girl. She said she just wants him–wants him ’cause he’s good enough the way he is. Like he’ll do. I would treat him better than that. I’m glad Kian’s there at the cougar party. All the cats are all over Niall. He loves it. He’s on a high. It’s driving me crazy. He’s telling some story about beating some guy up because he looked at his girl the wrong way. I’ve heard it a million times. The first time was on one of our Sunday night drives that were more about parking and talking than going anywhere. He told me he just doesn’t like anyone messing with him when he’s with his girl. So he’s always ready. “I think it’s fucked that no one has ever done that for you. It’s just like what a guy does. Protect his woman.” “I like to protect my girl.” He reiterates for the ladies. The gaggle is enthralled. I touch my lip and press on the part that’s sore. My eyes well. I blurt out, “I had the wickedest masturbation fantasy last night. I used this guy Marco Hill. He’s so hot. You guys wanna see him?” All the girls are in. I don’t look at Niall. But I can feel him. He’s too quiet. One of the girls asks, “What’s he look like?” as I am scrolling through Niall’s Facebook friends to find Mr. Hill. “I don’t know. You can’t see his face. He’s Muay Thai. Fucking hot.” “You had a fantasy about a guy and you don’t know what he looks like!?!” one chick chirps. “Believe me. The kinda hurt this guy was putting on me in the shower and the body he has. . . . I don’t need his head.” When I get to the picture, all the girls have a look. “It’s just, like, a thumbnail photo.” I know something they don’t and Niall knows I know it too. “What? You’re telling me you’ve never whacked off to a miniature picture before? Look at the guy’s legs, his stomach. . . it hurts my pussy just to look at his body.” Kian mouths, “I’ve yanked to little pics.” I laugh out loud and look at Niall. He’s staring hard. The girls get bored faster than I did of Niall’s story. They go back to the kitchen–go back to their wine. Kian follows. I feel tight, on the mark and powerful. This is what heads are for: to knock someone out doesn’t take a lot of force; you just need to jostle the brains a little. Niall looks like he’s suffering from whiplash. He’s studying me, all the vainglorious of earlier shaken right out of him. I knew this when I started: Niall still pretends that back in high school his girl wasn’t fucking his best friend–they both pretend. They pretend she still doesn’t like Marco Hill better. Niall gets up and struts over to me with a smirk on his face. “That was pretty fucking sharp, bitch. Pretty quick. Must be your fight night; you got me right here fucker.” He taps his chin. He’s face to face with me, looking at me like he’s beaming proud of me. I’m grinning from ear to ear. I got him, got him like only a bitch could. And I can finally feel it. I’m going to get what I want–what I want so badly from Niall: his special touch. And it starts with his hand on my chest lightly and it’s over before I even see it coming; he’s that fast when he hits me square on the jaw. And it’s that hard that it sends my head snapping back. And I fall. And I see lines and iridescent blobs, and then black. The pain is so deep it knocks a thousand hurts I’ve given and got right out of me. And I love this hurt. I love this hurt because it is not just in my head, it is real and it binds us. Out of the dark Niall’s hand is a burst of white light like a lotus opening and I reach up to take it. From the black liquid vacuum Niall pulls me to him long through a straw. I feel different. Cleansed. Stretched. Strong. Open. And love. And when Niall’s not looking, I laugh something secret: Praise be Oscar for pain, yes. But also, Thank Gandhi for Karma.