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Spitting Up Teeth: Pop! Resting on frozen peas

Mark Elliott

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“Alright! Elliott — E.B … Match up!”

Starting in standing position our hands shake, we circle round each other waiting for reaction, our palms slap to keep each other busy; keep each other thinking before the grab. It’s all over quite fast.

Guard is pulled and so am I. “Twist, turn…and pop!”

Pop! — Ahhhh! Tap! Never had to scream that.

Pop! — That was in my right knee.

Pop! — What was I going to do?

What the hell could I do? Beside curse a whole lot of words.

Stand was the first thing to do; seemed the most natural thing to do. The strength and confidence for that natural action went away. I’m shaking on this mat like I’ve never had hoping this pop wasn’t that bad. Coach does the Miyagi rub in the exact spot that feels off.

I want to believe I’m okay; believe that rest, ice and time will do the trick, yet I’m worried I’ll make this knee that much worse.

Each step I’m hoping gravity won’t give me the finger and there goes the ACL too. Maybe that is all in my head, but inside there, too, is an impression of me: scarred, wide eyed on a green mat. Taken back to the motion and sound — twist and pop! One bad day, one chance shift and there went a monkey wrench in the day-to-day pace.


The whole limp home I think of the big list of things I couldn’t confidently do. Turn corners, stand comfortably straight, run, hop, brake, chase trolleys to school, Muay Thai and long head-clearing walks. There went boxing in the city, the tangible victories and this whole column’s run too. And this was all just a sprain.

I don’t blame my teammate but I do ask fate, while spitting quite a lot of venom. Why not take what you want vanity wise? Give me a black eye, broken nose, crooked nose, chip tooth or a visible gash. Why not crack a rib and make it hard to breathe and sleep? I’m used to that — just leave me my mobility!

The pain isn’t in the steps or foot. The pain is to possibly watch others do. Challenge makes sense while in the roll or brawl; to not be able to go at it though; when you know you’re just as up to it as the others surrounding you in a gym hitting pads. God damn it, give me a chance! Let me have a shot at that struggle.

When I start to notice the healing begin is when I accept that change happens suddenly like a pace of a fight. It was going one way for so much time, then comes a blow that made you human again and your rhythm becomes something else entirely. Hurt or not I have to produce and push, do the best at 47 percent, and then be happy when It gets to 49.

This is my life for awhile now, I accept sitting and watching frozen peas rest on my knee. Every inch of relentlessness in me wants back on the mat; and every inch of my mind is cemented with panicking over the trouble I have standing.

It’s there not for reasons of fear but rather inspiration, see that pop was motivation. It’s the chip on the shoulder (or in this case the knee) I needed for this challenge. That pop is what will propel me to return and become something better and that’s when I throw a focused straight jab while the peas cool my knee, imagining everything I will do when I stand on a mat once again. Patience will last and so will I.

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Spitting Up Teeth: Pop! Resting on frozen peas