We never had sex any more. Occasionally our genitals got dragged out of retirement for one final, ugly grudge match: two shabby, shapeless remnants of once-great hammerers, wobbling reluctantly around the ring, half-heartedly slapping at each other.
Yes, it was another one of those wish-they-hadn't comebacks, immediately regretted—a reminder that nothing lasts, no amount of rhythm, movement, power, or affection can't be tranquilized by thirty years of disenchantment, self-neglect.
I closed my eyes and tried to visualize clouds floating through a tropical sky… trying not to think how disgusting I must look on top of you as I pounded away miserably, and you settled on your back, legs open, head to one side, as static as an overturned freight car.
“This was your idea!” I felt like getting off and saying. But I remembered the time I'd done that. The week-long war of attrition that followed. I didn’t have it in me to manufacture that much pre-emptive vitriol.
Christ, why do we do this to each other?
I was exhausted, sweaty, a wreck.
I opened my eyes and took in the hairy ruins grinding beneath us.
The viewing angle brought back memories of hidden abattoir footage: pigs jerking in their death agonies on conveyor belts.
Jesus, what's wrong with you?
I tried to think of something else. I just couldn't get over the mess down there: you couldn't tell whose was what or where.
I didn't want to look back up into your face: I didn't want to see you looking so unimpressed.
My big guy started quivering, my chest began to hurt, and it was nearly over.
Then, quite suddenly, I had a moment of clarity.
Christ. What a brilliant play.
In the centuries-long chronicles of my underestimations of you, I’d never gotten you more wrong than right now.
You were still a fighter: you were just playing for keeps.
And this would be our last match, our final purse.
As you'd been lying there like a beached whale dying of ennui, and I'd been flapping frantically on top of you, you'd worn me down till I could hardly breathe.
And when I came, shuddering, a few strokes before the inevitable, you pulled yourself free of me forever.
You rolled out of bed with a conquering thump as my left arm throbbed and my chest compacted inwards, then turned back as I gurgled something I hoped sounded like “paramedic”.
Your face was almost radiant with triumph.
After thirty-six years, here was the final, indisputable proof.
I was just a bum.
And you were the Champ.