Ten years ago
“What are we doing here?” I ask my father as he gets out of the car.
“Grab your training bag,” he orders, sticking his head back in the car before slamming the door.
I reach into the back seat and do as I’m told before rushing out of the car and scurrying to catch up with my father. It doesn’t pay to be tardy with my dad.
We walk silently, side by side as he leads me inside the gym. I have no idea why we’re here. Aren’t gyms for adults who want to lose weight or turn themselves into big muscle men? I mean, it’s possible my dad had the sudden urge for a workout but then, he wouldn’t have brought me along.
I take a good look around as we head deeper inside the gym. The place is packed and I can guarantee, there are no other kids in here. Just me.
I take in the sights, the women on the treadmill, jogging with their headphones in, the big bulky men lifting weights that seem impossible to lift, the self-defence class which is taking a break. The place is awesome but it’s no place for me.
An older man with muscles for days approaches my father and gives me a strange look. I do my best to pay attention, after all, I wouldn’t want to make my father look bad because that never ends well.
“You must be Byron?” the older man asks, sticking his hand out for my father to shake.
“Indeed. Thank you for meeting me on such short notice,” my father replies in his ‘business’ tone.
“No problem at all. My name’s Rex,” he says before looking down at me. “You must be Xander?”
My eyes narrow curiously on the guy. How does he know who I am? My father’s sharp eyes cut to me with a warning and I straighten myself out. “Yes, sir. I’m Xander,” I say.
“Good,” my father cuts in as he checks his watch. “Now we’re all acquainted, he’s all yours. I’ll be back at seven to pick him up.”
What? Seven is three hours away. I didn’t just get my first job, did I? Nah, couldn’t be that, my family is loaded and I’m only eleven. Surely there is some kind of rule against eleven-year old’s working, right?
I’m still lost in thought trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing here when Rex pulls me out of my head. “Right, you’re with me,” he says as he starts walking away.
Once again, I find myself scrambling to catch up.
I follow him to a back office where he asks me to stand tall against a wall and spread my arms out. He starts writing numbers down and it takes me a while to realise he is taking my measurements. “Um, sir?” I ask. “What am I doing here?”
He looks up with narrowed eyes. “You don’t know?” he questions.
“No, sir,’ I respond.
He lets out a breath while a look of absolute astonishment comes over him. “First of all, cut this ‘sir’ bullshit,” he warns me. “The name’s Rex. Use it. Secondly, you’re here to train, in fact, you’ll be here every afternoon following school.”
“What?” I grunt, not very impressed.
Rex shrugs his shoulders. “Apparently, you’re some big Ice Hockey protégée and your father wants to ensure you stay that way.”
I can’t help but let my disappointment show. I should have known this had something to do with hockey. “Fine,” I sigh, it’s not like I have any other choice. My father will do anything to make sure I make it to the NHL, I should have seen this coming.
“You don’t seem too impressed,” he questions.
“Would you be? My friends were going to the movies this afternoon but I’m here training for a future in hockey,” I scoff.
“What’s with the tone?” he questions as he leans back on his desk and crosses his big arms over his chest. “You’re not keen about a future in hockey?”
“I mean, I don’t know,” I tell him honestly. “I like to play.”
“But you don’t love it?”
I shake my head ever so slightly, feeling a strange betrayal settle in the pit of my stomach. Admitting after all these years that hockey isn’t the love of my life like my father expects, feels odd, wrong almost. “No, I don’t.”
“What are you interested in?” he asks.
I shrug my shoulders again. “I don’t know,” I grunt.
He considers me for a moment before standing up from his desk. “Alright, here’s the plan,” he says. “Whether you like it or not, you’re here every afternoon till seven. So, you’re going to take every class we offer here until you figure out what you want to do and then I’ll train you after classes with agility and strength to keep your father off my back.”
“Really?” I ask, starting to lighten up.
“Sure thing, kid,” he says, walking out to the gym. I follow behind and listen intently to the one person who has ever actually listened to me. Rex looks down at his watch then back to me. “The Martial Arts class starts in fifteen minutes. It’s an adult class but it’s going to have to do so go and get warmed up.”
I do exactly what I’ve been told and make my way deeper into the gym. I try out the treadmill, though I’m really not sure what I’m doing. I usually warm up running outdoors but I guess I’m trying new things today.
Fifteen minutes later, I walk into the Martial Arts room and an hour later, I walk out feeling like all the pieces of my puzzle have finally fallen into place. It’s suddenly extremely clear that I have been wasting my time with Hockey.
Martial Arts is it for me and I know it with one hundred percent certainty.