Continued from Part 1
His Toughness noticed me looking and put down his weights. Even though he was several paces away, I felt genuinely nervous as he started toward me. As a gym novice, I was unsure if I had violated some "don't look" rule of weight rooms. Men's restrooms had such prohibitions—why shouldn't another enclave of incubated testosterone?
He introduced himself with the name "Tito," and I mumbled my name. He nodded. The pause that followed was awkward—if you graphed a line showing how people handle awkward moments, I would be at the zenith of the line. So I started studying Tito's tattoos.
The tattoo on Tito's right shoulder was an intricate collection of colors and shapes that I couldn't understand. It looked as if a sixth grader had drawn a picture only to have his little sister scribble it out and do something else on the same piece of paper. Perhaps this process was repeated several times. On his left shoulder, a very bold five pointed star in solid black was pasted slightly off center. It looked like he had been inked at a very young age and the skin had floated off center over the years.
Tito must have been at the nadir of the arc, because he looked disgruntled by the pause. I, however, was very gruntled and asked an intelligent question:
"So what line of work are you in, Tito?" This was the question Tito had been waiting for. His whole demeanor changed into that of a proud school boy's and I thought for a brief instant that this might have been what he was like when he got the star tattoo.
"I am an Ultimate Fighter, kid." Tito proceeded to tell me all about ultimate fighting, the sport which had honed his body and which he proclaimed with his body art.
Take the roman gladiators, subtract the sharp objects, blunt weapons and shields, change the venue from the Amphitheater Flavium to a metal cage and add steroids. If you did the math right, you have ultimate fighting. It's a really daring activity that attracts the imaginations of teenagers and gives washed up boxers a way to get back on Pay-Per-View. I was hooked.
The more Tito talked, the more I was amazed that he still had all his teeth. Then he told me a story about how he lost the majority in a single punch and how this happened twice and that the pair he had now was actually his third set of orthodontic stand-ins. His left eye was made of glass, his right leg had so much metal it qualified under some definitions as a prosthetic limb and he was missing a finger. I hadn't noticed the finger until then.
Tito taught me how to punch. Sure, I'd seen people get hit in the Matrix Movies, but when Tito hit the punching bag the bag gave the sort of deflated sound you would expect to hear from an opponent after a knockout blow. I think now that I am an even more dangerous person than Tito, because now I know just enough to start a fight. At least Tito can end a fight.
Tito was like a sports talk radio personality without the standard English vocabulary, but with much more colorful language. He talked about the history, ethics, problems and opportunities of fighting. He billed several upcoming fights and warned me about the dangers of overtraining. And he never talked about anything else. He never asked questions and never deviated from his topic of interest. I thought Tito must be a dream date.
When my workout was over, Tito left as well, presumably to go visit another gym and continue his "workout."
UPDATE: Tito was in a fight this weekend. He was knocked out in 35 seconds. His opponent pulled out a tattoo gun and added some marks to Tito's right shoulder while he was out. I understand now why it looks so ugly.