I sit in the first row, clutching a paper ticket in my clenched right fist. My fingers trace the inside of my jacket pocket as I crumple the once-sturdy paper into a hundred little folds. I’m usually not this nervous, but this evening is a special occasion. Tonight is the night when Tonya Harding, my beloved pudgy pugilist, boxes for her paycheck in a FOX fiasco against the indomitable Charlie Sheen. They said Tonya couldn’t win, that she was an asthmatic fraud who relied on brawn rather than brains, that she couldn’t pull it off without cheating, that she should make haste to the comfort of her double-wide and spend the rest of her life quietly ducking the gauche incivilities of social mobility. And that was in 1994! I pray my girl just doesn’t get the crap knocked out of her tonight. I would not want that- and certainly not at the hands of Charlie. Deep down, I know he loves seeing a chick get beat up, especially one he really, really likes.
Round one. I see Tonya sitting on a stool, chewing a piece of green gum. Then she spits. I am ecstatic. Charlie Sheen stands in his corner, nose in the air, strutting about as if he is too talented to be troubled by, or rather, reduced to, fighting a pseudo-celebrity in a cheap exploitative sideshow of a match. You may have tiger blood, Charlie, but my girl has beaten better men than you – with a hubcap. The bell rings and the two fighters make the awkward dance to the center of the ring to engage in one last display of pleasantries before the pounding begins. Tonya touches gloves, looks Charlie Sheen straight in the eye, firms her bicep, braces her shoulder and…takes a hard jab to the face. Ouch. He’s been practicing. The pummeling continues as the D-lister turns round one into a modernist horror show, painting a skilled but technical portrait of hooks, uppercuts, jabs, and illegal headbutts on the canvas of Tonya’s face. Inside I am seething with the injustice of it all. Everybody hates the smartest kid in the class and despises a reckless show-off. Charlie was spoiling the curve for everyone in the arena that evening by delivering a humiliating first-class beat-down to the most gorgeous woman in the room and, surprisingly, taking absolutely no pleasure in doing so. If you’re going to destroy something beautiful, at least look alive.
The bell sounds, Tonya flounders back to her corner and plops down in her seat like a load of garbage negligently cast from the back end of a dump truck. I now know how the Germans felt at Leningrad. The look in Tonya’s freshly swollen eye tells me she knows Leila is a superior fighter, she knows Charlie is faster and stronger and crazier and angrier and meaner, she knows there is no hope. It is the saddest thing; the day the starving artist finally understands she is no Van Gogh, throws her easel in the trash and scans the classified ads for secretarial work; the day the lead guitarist of a middling cover band realizes she will never “make it big” and ends up writing jingles for a local used car dealership; it is the broken look of a failed ne’er-be-champion who finally understands her own mediocrity. I cannot allow this to happen. Not Tonya, not tonight.
Round two. The bell sounds and Charlie darts across the ring like a vulture eager to pick every fetid morsel of decaying meat off Tonya’s corpse. Tonya shrinks back, retreating like a Pole in 1939. Without another thought, I duck under the ropes. I am no Leila Ali, but I was one hell of a high school softball player who could play the infield and never wore a bow in my hair. I place all my angst, hate, doubt, remorse, and love into one wild supersonic hay maker. This is no longer about Tonya: this is for Carol the fat girl in the fifth grade; this is for the missed promotions and the middle-aged bosses who stare at the nape of your neck and think you don’t notice; this is for the yellow sheets every morning before school; this is for Kathleen Hanna and punk rock; this is for Roosh V and his gang of flunkies; this is for every chode, every toad, every rapist, and every catcalling fuckboy who breaks a girl’s will. My fist howls in rapturous pain as it meets Charlie Sheen’s chin.
I go down, spiraling to the ground as my vision fades. That Carlos Estevez sure hits hard. As day turns into night and security gathers round with their tasers, I gaze upward at my Tonya. Her sweaty neck and wet blonde hair glow in the bright stage lights, accented by the patchwork quilt of welts and bruises all over her face. Her blue eyes rejuvenate my spirit even as my legs fail. A drop of blood escapes from between her lips as she tearfully mouths “thank you”. Life may be cruel, but it has its strange rewards.
Written by By Lillian F of Portland, OR.