The old man wakes up and once again refuses to come to terms with the reality of his battered knees and gnarled fingers and perpetual bloat. Yesterday he was young. Yesterday he smelled vanilla cupcake body spray on the hoodie of a girl at the movie theater who didn’t kiss him but gave him the first feeling of wanting to kiss someone. He smelled cheap beer and blueberry swishers and then later Givenchy and Chanel and cigarettes in New York. Orange creamsicle skies howling with creosote and desert clay air. Now it’s the smell of young fighters’ sweat and the pah pah pat of gloves on the bag.

The timer beeps and he shuffles throughout the ring in his slippers throwing up mitts with a speed that betrays the pace of his shuffle. The young men respect him and his made-up-but-only-known-to-him theory for fighting. He would say things like ‘love boxing like you hate yourself’ or ‘don’t eat dinner tonight but do get yer dick sucked.’ The boys eat it up with only semi skepticism. The girls don’t mind him calling them tough bitches, but they do throw extra weight into the mitts, pushing him back a step, and on occasion miss the mitts and clip his chin and he laughs and tells them to give him another as he crosses his arms behind his back and takes a heavy slug and then another when he asks for it.

He wakes up in an empty bed and walks into the kitchen to find an old woman reading the news. Her hair is more white than black now, but there’s still some there. Her eyes have stayed bright and she sits up straight and drinks her coffee with an elegance he’ll never stop loving. Still though, he aches and remembers the senses of his youth and hers, the physical ugly gorgeous passion and spontaneity of it; the luxury of being alone, the thing that makes two people their own that disappears with each passing year of togetherness that leads to a bond that doesn’t require niceties and compliments to the point that those things feel like luxuries when they do occur. Togetherness that makes them one, that is beyond the senses.

He kisses her and makes a coffee and takes it down to the complex pool. He eases in to the jacuzzi and thinks of his late dad. The slow grace in the way a father moves. Ways that seemed innate in his dad when he was younger, that he began to notice in himself a long time ago. Laying out in the jacuzzi splayed strategically so that his belly doesn’t fold but the morning sun falls on him still and his aching knees are soothed; the duck waddle flap of feet on wet concrete as he walks back to the condo sounding like summers long past.

A fighter new to the gym earns some time in the ring. He taps his gloves against each other and bares his mouthguard at his skeletal counterpart in the opposite corner. The old man stands at the ropes’ edge. The skeleton breathes slow and loosens his shoulders and throws his head around like he has water stuck in his ear canals. The bell sounds and the new guy smacks his gloves once more, this time causing a ripple in the muscles of his chest and arms. He flexes his biceps before they both touch gloves and the new guy swings a wide left hook and the skeleton ducks. The skeleton steps back and dances around the new guy as he swings and misses, swings and misses. Finally, the skeleton throws a jab that causes the new guy to look like he has to sneeze before he shakes it off and throws hook after uppercut after hook. The round ends.

The old man tells the new guy to relax. He tells him he’s flat-footed as a fucking platypus and tells the skeleton how beautiful his footwork is but to not hold back with his right hand—he’s depending on his jab more than he should, he has a beautiful right hand. The bell chimes again and the new guy grunts. The skeleton hits him with another jab, slips another hook, then counters with his own, knocking the new guy back. The new guy leans into him and walks him, practically lifts him, to the corner and makes it near impossible for him to move. The skeleton tries to get out, but the new guy is throwing hard clenched strikes to his kidneys until he takes a half-step back and puts the skeleton to his knees with a short vicious hook just below his ear. The old man says it’s a spar, goddammit! He tends to the skeleton with a splash of water and a loving slap to the face and takes his gloves off before sliding him out of the ring. He puts the gloves on himself and steps toward the new guy. The new guy smiles thinking the old man is joking until he eats a straight right that opens his upper lip. He touches at it then takes another and another.

They watch TV together before falling asleep holding hands. It’s been this way for 15 years. Every moment the same and different all at once. Wine and homecooked meals and childless sex. They kiss goodnight I love you and fall asleep. They wake up and she says I love you again. And again he loves her. And again he thinks of what could have been and wonders why he could never shake the habit of thinking it as he lies in bed dreading having to use his pained hands to brush his teeth. Still, he does it to the tune of pop songs from twenty years ago she plays from the other room.

The new guy pushes the old man away and puts a hand out as if to say stop. The old man comes forward and, as he cocks another punch, is stopped with a solid right that puts him on the mat. Other fighters who’d been watching ringside step in and help him up, others coming for the new guy. He leaves the ring as they lunge at him and snatches up his bag before leaving altogether. The old man stands up and limps to the restroom. He splashes water on his face and looks in the mirror at his swelling eye. He forces a smile and goes to his car without saying anything. The old woman asks him what he’s doing home early and then, oh my god what happened to you. He tells her that he keeps getting older, but they stay the same age. She gives him a kiss over his eyelid and asks him if he wants to walk the dog with her. He says: gladly.