Chapter 16:

Risky Return: Cole

Insurmountable Odds

Despite skipping Monday’s Muay Thai lesson, my muscles still ached as if I had attended. I stretched in front of my window, looking out on the morning sun rising over the horizon.

Academics wise, my schedule was completely clear today, aside from the possibility of going to jiujitsu later tonight. Although I haven’t fully decided whether I’m going to become a regular member of the MMA club, I figured I should at least attend the jiujitsu and open mat classes when I’m available.

I dressed up as usual and left my dorm room early to make sure I could return in time for jiujitsu.

After a long and monotonous day of waiting and explaining, talking with nurses and doctors alike, I finally finished most of the work I had to do now that I’ve moved away from home.

I returned to my room right on time to prepare for MMA. I put on my freshly washed rash guard and spats which still hung loosely off my frame. Just to be safe I reapplied some deodorant before leaving once again to fight.

To be completely honest, after such a long day of fighting through the American Healthcare system, jiujitsu sounded more like torture than a reward. Even still, I knew that if I didn’t go this time, then I’d make more excuses for less in the future in order to skip classes.

I know deep down I still care about this sport and won’t allow my condition to get in the way of that!

Amidst my inner-monologue, I arrived at the clubroom right on time. After taking a moment to push down the dread of what was waiting for me inside, I opened the door and made my way in.

Immediately, I noticed how empty it was. The only people present who weren’t in the club before were Lucas and me. Due to the lack of people, my entrance felt even more awkward as a wave of silence rushed over the room in response to the creaky door opening.

Lucas brightened up upon seeing me and ran over, dragging me into the room by the arm.

“Hey! I’m glad you could make it!” He said jollily, “Everyone’s really nice but being the only new guy can be pretty suffocating at times.”

Lucas’s bright smile as he talked and walked me around the room was blinding, almost making me forget about the world outside of this situation for a brief moment. After about a minute of shenanigans and reintroductions, my arm felt as though it was going to fall off and I pulled away.

“Oh sorry, was I being too much?” Lucas asked quietly, obviously unaware of his own strength.

“It’s fine, I just need to stretch before class.” I replied quickly, walking away and into my own corner of the room.

I let out a long sigh as soon as I was alone.

Although he means well, he’s just… a lot all at once.

I only managed to get in a few stretches before we were summoned to the middle of the mats to begin warm-ups. As we began, I went to talk to the captain.

“Do you mind if I finish my stretching routine and just skip the warm-ups?” I asked as everyone began running laps around the room. “It won’t take too long, and I’ll be fine for class.”

If I have to do those extra workouts, I won’t make it through the class.

Before the captain was able to reply, Lucas chimed in from outside the conversation.

“I’d let him, I’m sure he knows what’s best for himself given his skill.” He gave me a casual wink before continuing his laps.

“Fine, just be sure to participate in the rest of class.” The captain waved me away as he rejoined the group.

After going through my entire routine as the club did theirs, I attempted to assimilate back into the group seamlessly as the captain began discussing the drills.

My attempt was unfortunately foiled by my own feet as I tripped over myself walking onto the mat. Luckily, I was able to catch myself and land in a forward roll, but I wasn’t able to save my pride.

“Smooth,” the short, muscular club member said snarkily as I stood up slowly.

“Shut it.” I snapped as I assumed my spot in the impromptu semicircle around the captain and vice-captain.

“Anyway, as I was saying, we’ll be doing drills from side control and mount today.” The vice-captain continued, showing the basic positions as well as transitions to begin the drills.

After the demonstration, I was once again paired up with Lucas as we separated to practice the move. We settled down in an isolated corner of the mat and got to work.

As I helped Lucas through the move, critiquing his positioning and assisting his transitions along the way, I couldn’t help but notice how fast of a learner he was. Although he seemed like nothing but a jovial guy at first glance, it was evident that he was a dedicated and hard worker who had a growing passion for MMA.

A bittersweet smile crossed my face as I reminisced on when I began jiujitsu and worked just as he did now. I let out a small sigh as we switched places, focusing back on the present.

“So, what had you so busy Monday?” Lucas asked as we began drilling, “I was just wondering-“

I cut him off by shoving my arm across his face and compressing his chest in side control. He let out a slight gasp as I kept my pressure going throughout the duration of the move.

“I was just busy.” I said tritely, attempting to shut down the conversation. “It was the first week of classes after all.”

“Will you be going to any Muay Thai sessions in the future then?” He asked as I reset, letting him breathe.

“Probably not.”

“Bummer.” He sounded dejected from my reply, causing me to feel a tinge of guilt despite it being out of my control.

“What about last weekend, with the social?” He perked back up as he continued before being compressed once again.

“I was just busy.”

“So… you’ll come to the next one, right?” He gave me a goofy smile and elbow to the side while he asked.

I looked down at the floor as we reset once again, unsure what to say.

“I don’t know.”

Before he could interrogate me anymore, we switched partners for the next movements from side and mount.

A few awkward introductions and drills later, we were ready to spar. Given the amount of time left in class, it seemed that, including breaks, the captain planned to have everyone roll with each other once.

Although the thought would have excited me in the past as a young martial artist, I now dreaded the prospect of fighting six people in succession.

Welp, here goes nothing.