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La Bruja de Bronx

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  1. La Bruja de Bronx
  3. Walking home at 3:26 in the morning, not my best move. With that in mind, I pick up the pace a little. How I managed to lose track of each of the 4 friends I went out with and end up at the very end of Hughes is beyond me. I check my phone to see if it will miraculously turn back to life: nothing. Dammit.
  4. “Hey, Alanza!” I turn back to see Garrett loping towards me. He’s not my favorite person in the whole world, but it beats walking alone, so I wait for him. Garrett’s face resembles a golden retriever’s face after fetching a tennis ball, never tired of the relentless game. “What up, my little Mexican jumping bean?”
  5. “I told you to stop calling me that.”
  6. Garrett smacks himself roughly on the forehead, “God, my bad dude, I’m trying here.”
  7. Sure you are, dude.
  8. We walk together in silence for a bit. Garrett clears his throat, “So, what are your plans for the rest of the night?”
  9. “I’m going home to watch Broad City and eat Cheetos. You?”
  10. “Sounds fun, but you know what would be even better? If you came over my to my apartment right now.”
  11. Sighing, I stop and look at him, “Look, Garrett, I’m tired and I just want to go back home, ok?”
  12. “My apartment is so close though, and I have Cheetos.”
  13. “Tempting, but again, I just want to go back to campus.” I try to start walking again, but Garrett grabs me by the arm. “Let go of me.”
  14. His grip tightens, “My apartment is literally right there, Alanza. Tons of girls would be dying to be in your shoes right now.”
  15. “Garrett, I said let go of me.” I try to pull my arm away, but his hand is like a vice. Before I even know what’s going on, my left arm comes swinging around, hitting him straight on the cheek. His hand lets go of me, and my right hand goes straight up and into the bottom of his jaw, and I can hear his teeth snap together. I sprint away from him, and I can barely see five inches in front of me when I run into a dark mass. Landing on my back, I’m trying to scramble away from whatever is in front of me when I hear, “Hey, hey, calm down. I’m not going to hurt you.”
  16. My eyes adjust to the light, and I see a man with hands the size of baseball gloves, a beer belly, and a receding hairline. “You alright there, mija?”
  17. “Well, considering I’m laying on a dirty sidewalk, I think I’ve been better.”
  18. He chuckles, “You got a point. That was some wicked punches you threw over there.”
  19. “If we are going to talk about my punching technique, can you at least help me get up?” I reach my hand out, and he grabs it. With a small “oof”, he helps me get back onto my feet. Looking at him a bit closely, I can tell the man who helped me up is Leo. He owns a few bars around the Bronx, and I have seen him strutting around a few times when I go to get groceries or whenever I’m out with my friends.
  20. “What’s your name, mija?”
  21. “It’s Alanza.”
  22. “Alanza, that’s a good name. How did you learn how to throw a hit like that?”
  23. I shrug, “I don’t know. It just happened.”
  24.  “With a little extra help, you could be an excellent boxer.”
  25. “Me? A boxer? You got to be shitting me.”
  26. “Nah, mija, I can see it. You got a fire in you that’s perfect for it; I can just tell.”
  27. “As much as I like hearing that I have a fire in me, I just want to get home.”
  28. Leo sighs, “Alright. I’ll walk you back. I got to protect my fighter.”
  29. I choke, “Your fighter?”
  30. He motions his head for us to start walking, so we start along, “Listen, I’ve been looking for some fighters lately, and you’re exactly what I’m looking for.”
  31. “I literally have no experience though.”
  32. “Don’t worry about it. I got people to train you. You get a cut from all the fights you win and lose, but let’s face it, it’s mostly going to be wins.”
  33. Leo is still talking about what good of a feeling he has about me as one of his fighters when I see him. He’s too far away to make out his face, but I can tell it’s him by the way he walks and the outline of his body. And all of a sudden, I can taste the red wine from that night at the party, and my heart begins to beat faster and faster.
  34. “Mija, we’re here.”
  35. I feel Leo nudging me with his elbow, and I realize we are right at the gates of campus, but I still can’t get the wine taste from my mouth. I swivel around to see if he’s near, but he’s gone.
  36. “You, ok?” Leo asks.
  37. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
  38. Leo looks at me, and I try to match his gaze, but I just end up looking down. “Whatever you say. Take my card. If you decide you want to try this out, the gym’s address is on it. Training starts at 4pm tomorrow.”
  39. I take the card. “Thanks for walking me back, Leo.”
  40. “Anytime, mija. See you tomorrow.”
  41. “Whatever you say.”
  42. Leo nods at me before turning around to head back. I look down at the card. It’s black with the words “Gimnasio de Jesús” in white block letters. The address shows that the gym is only two blocks away from campus. For a second, I find myself considering going. Mamá would kill me. She hated it when I played goalie for my soccer team and that’s nothing in comparison to boxing. Of course I’m not going. I crumble the card in my hand before going through the campus gates.
  44. It’s 4pm, and I’m somehow outside of Gimnasio de Jesús. Oh God, what am I thinking? I should just turn around and head back home. And yet, my feet remain firmly planted in front of the gym.
  45. The door to the gym opens, and Leo steps out, “Mija, are you coming in or what? I saw you standing out there for the past 10 minutes.”
  46. To my surprise, I square my shoulders, and I march past Leo into the gym. The warehouse lighting illuminates a grand room with red walls and a black floor. On the right side, there is a long line of punching bags, and on the left side, there’s a row of speed bags. Two different boxing rings occupy the middle with people sparring in them. A sparse amount of people are taking advantage of the speed bags and punching bags.
  47.  I’m the only girl in the entire place. I turn to Leo, “So, when are the other girls showing up?”
  48. He chuckles, “You’re the only girl I got.”
  49. “I thought you were looking for more girls to join your already established group of female boxers.”
  50. “Never said anything like that.”
  51. Before I could say anything else, a guy about a head shorter than me appears by my side. His dark eyes are those kinds that always look like he’s glaring at you, and even though he’s short, he’s stocky and can definitely knock you down in one swift blow. Leo pats the guy on the shoulder, “Meet your trainer, Jesús.”
  52. Jesús gives me a curt nod. Seems like a man of many words.
  53. I smile, “Cool, I get the guy the gym is named after. I feel special.” I’m pretty sure Jesús’s eyes got even narrower after I said that.
  54. Leo continues, “By the way, have you told anyone you’re doing this?”
  55. I shake my head.
  56. “Good, let’s keep it that way.”
  57. “Why? This isn’t illegal or anything, right?’
  58. Leo scratches his head and looks at the ground, “The BX Fight Club is in the process of getting our license.”
  59. “I thought the first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club.”
  60. “That’s why I’m telling you not to talk about it.”
  61. “But you’re talking about it right now.”
  62. Leo’s eye twitches just a bit, “Ay mija, just don’t tell anyone about this, ok?”
  63. “You got it, capitán. But wait, what do I tell people about what I’m doing all the time now? Some are going to ask.”
  64. He smiles, “Just tell them you’re helping out at church. Now, get to training.”
  65. Jesús motions with his head towards the punching bag nearest us. I’m about to follow him when I see something out of the corner of my eye. I see a flash of blond, and for a second, I could’ve sworn it was him.  My breath quickens when I see he’s wearing an army green shirt, just like that night. But, the guy turns to face me, and he has brown eyes, not blue.
  66. Jesús grunts at me, and I turn to him, my breath slowing down a bit. He motions to the punching bag again, and I start towards it.
  68. My training is intense. I train every day in one-way or another. If I’m not in the gym with Jesús, I’m going on runs around campus or jumping rope in my room. Jesús barely speaks to me while training; using only grunts of various pitches to show his approval or disapproval of whatever I’m doing. I feel like I’m learning a whole new language with him. Leo, on the other hand, is very verbal. He talks so much whenever I’m sparring one of the other fighters that I have gotten a few hits to the head while I’m telling him to shut up. Thank god for make up so I could always hide those shiners.
  69. Every Saturday, I have a match. The locations of the matches change every weekend. Sometimes, we aren’t able to get a boxing ring, and we just fight in the middle of the room with everyone circled around us. The majority of the time we do get a boxing ring, which I prefer, but there’s something about not having anything between you and the people that come to watch that you can’t beat. The way you can feel the energy pulsing around you, hearing both the cheers and the insults from everyone. Some of those insults are damn clever, by the way. Of course, I can always hear Leo’s voice louder than anything else, urging me on, “Vamos, mija! You’re better than her!”
  70. Before my first fight, I was in the locker room taping and re-taping my hands over and over, never satisfied with how they felt. I heard a knock on the door, “Come in.”
  71. Leo walks in with a brown box in his hand. He sees me with the tape in my hand, puts down the box, and takes the tape from me. Taking my hand, he begins to wrap it with tape, and it’s already a lot better than how I was doing it.
  72. We stand in silence for a while, as he’s wraps first one hand and then the other. It’s almost as if we are both mesmerized by the tape going around and around my wrists and knuckles.
  73. When he finishes, he reaches for the box he had set down earlier, “I got you something, mija. It occurred to me last week that you had nothing to wear for your first match. Also, you need a, how you say, stage name. You can’t just be using your real name for when you fight. I hope you don’t mind, but I picked a name out for you. If you don’t like it, no worries mija; I can take a hit like that.”
  74. He reaches in the box and shows me a pair of black boxing shorts with gold trimming. Setting that down next to me, he goes into the box again. In his hands is a black robe with a gold belt and on the back are in gold words, “La Bruja de Bronx”.
  75. I gingerly take the robe from Leo, “I love the name. Thank you, Leo.”
  76. “Of course, mija. You’re such a crafty fighter you’re practically a witch in the ring. Jesús thought a better name would be the Bitch of the Bronx.”
  77. “He can talk?”
  78. “You would be surprised. He has a lot to say.”
  79. I keep looking at the robe, and I can’t believe this all came from one freak encounter at 3:26 in the morning on Hughes. Leo clears his throat, “Listen, the girl you’re facing is a rookie too. But she don’t have that fire like you do. Remember that fire in the ring. The match starts in 15; I’ll see you out there.” And with that, he walks out of the locker room.
  80. I end up knocking the girl out 30 seconds into the match.
  82. Every time I get into the ring, I win. Most of the time the fights are done in less than 10 minutes. Leo has to tell me to let the fight last longer so the people can get their money’s worth. As soon as I put the robe on, I feel la Bruja waking up inside of me. Most of my opponents can’t even look me in the eye as the referee makes us tap gloves. After 5 consecutive wins, I’m declared champion of the women’s middleweight class.
  84. I’m training with the speed bag when Leo walks over to me, “Mija, I got big news for you.”
  85. I keep punching as I motion my head towards Jesús, “Is Jesús here finally going to talk to me?”
  86. Jesús grunts deeply.
  87. “Sheesh, no need for that attitude, Jesús. A girl can dream.”
  88. Leo starts again, “Listen, you’re doing so well I got us a special match. You’re going to be facing the men’s middleweight class champion this weekend.”
  89. I stop punching, “You’re joking.”
  90. “Nope. You’re going to be facing the Wendigo.”
  91. “Leo, I’m going to die.”
  92. “He’s not the actual Wendigo, mija. It’s just his stage name.”
  93. “Well, yeah, but he’s a dude. I’m going to get my ass handed to me.”
  94. “Have a little faith in yourself. This match is going to have a huge turnout. We’re even going to do a big weigh-in before the match and everything.”
  95. I start hitting the speed bag again, “Ok, capitán. Whatever you say.”
  97. It’s Saturday, and Leo leads me to the locker room, “Go ahead and get changed into your things. We are going to do the weigh-in, then we get 15 minutes in the locker room, and then the match starts.”
  98. Leo waits outside as I go in and get changed. I place my gym bag to the bench and take out my shorts, putting those on first, and then changing into my black sports bra. Already, I feel Alanza leaving and la Bruja slowly emerging. I change my shoes and quickly braid my hair back. Unfolding my robe, I put that on and sling my bag over my shoulder. Leo is checking his phone when I get out of the locker room. I hand him my bag, and he leads me to where we are doing the weigh-in.
  99. The room is only a few doors down from the locker room. We enter, and everyone starts cheering my name. Cameras start flashing, and I can barely see Leo’s back as he leads me to the front of the room to meet my opponent. By the time we get to the front, the lights from the cameras aren’t so bad now. I look to see who the Wendigo is, and my jaw drops when I see it’s him.
  100. His blond hair with matching stubble on his jaw and blue eyes stares into mine, but it doesn’t seem like he recognizes me. What’s even better is that his shorts are army green. My heart starts to race, and there’s a roaring in my ears. I look at the referee who’s announcing our names, but I can’t hear him. It’s getting harder and harder to breathe. The referee is making us shake hands. He reaches his hand out politely, but I can’t do anything but just stare at it. Eventually, I feel a nudge on my back, and I know it’s Leo. The muscles in my arms are replaced with rocks, as I have to use all of my strength to lift my arm up. My hands shake before holding his hand. The handshake feels like it lasts for an eternity. We finally let go, and I know the referee is dismissing us, but I still can’t hear him. I just turn around and try to push my way through the crowd.
  101. Just make it to the locker room, Alanza. I no longer feel like la Bruja anymore; I’m just Alanza.
  102. My vision is getting darker and darker. I have to place a hand on the wall to guide me. Finally, I make it to the locker room. I try to sit on the bench, but I miss it, and I just end up on the floor. Tears stream down my face as I clutch my arms, digging my nails into my skin.
  103. Suddenly, I feel something touch me. I flinch and try to move away, but I hear, “Mija, it’s me, Leo.” I open my eyes, and he’s right there next to me on the floor. I’m about to tell him to go away, but I just bury my face into his chest. He holds me tightly.
  104. “Mija, talk to me.”
  105. Sniffling, I sit up and face Leo, “I know him, Leo. He didn’t even recognize me. How could he not recognize me?”
  106. “How do you know him?”
  107. I look at the tile floor, “We met at a party last year. My god, he was just my type: blond hair, blue eyes. Basically, the ultimate white boy. He looked so good in that army green shirt he was wearing. I told him I didn’t want to do anything. He said that was ok, but he didn’t listen.” I tried to open my mouth to say more, but I just burst into tears.
  108. Leo embraces me, “You don’t have to talk about it anymore, mija.”
  109. I cry into his shirt, “I was so ashamed that I couldn’t stop him, so I never reported it. I didn’t want anyone to find out what happened.”
  110. Leo rubs my back, “Listen, you don’t have to do the fight. I can tell everyone you got food poisoning or something.”
  111. I manage to calm down enough, and I sit back up again, “I just don’t know what to do.”
  112. “You could put the fear of death into that bastard.”
  113. But that voice didn’t come from Leo, it came from behind me. I turn around to see Jesús standing there with his arms crossed. He continues, “Of course you don’t have to fight, Alanza, but you are one of the best fighters I have ever had. I used to train that pendejo, and he’s horrible. I stopped training him because I didn’t want to be associated with him. I thought I could change him as a person too, but I realized that you can’t with somebody like him no matter how hard you try. You didn’t deserve to have this happened to you. But, if you go in that ring, you’re not going to be just getting revenge. In fact, you shouldn’t even do it for revenge. You’re going to show that bastard that you’re ten times the person he is. You’re la Bruja; the best damn fighter with a fire in her that even he can’t put out.”
  114. I turn to look at Leo, and he tells me, “You can fight him or not. It’s up to you. I’ll support you no matter what you decide.”
  115. I look at the ground as if it’s going to give me an answer. Then, I feel something stir in me. La Bruja is knocking on my ribcage, wanting to get out. I square my shoulders and let her take over. Turning to Leo, I tell him, “Get the tape, so you can wrap my hands.”
  116. Leo smiles, “You got it, mija.”
  117. Jesús grunts.
  118. Leo grabs the tape and begins to wrap my hands. I bounce in place, warming up my legs. When he finishes, I get my gloves and leave the locker room.
  119. Even from the hallway, I can hear the people cheering. Leo shuffles ahead so he can get the door. Jesús puts the hood up on my robe for me. When the door opens, I march out into the crowd. People are screaming my name, but I can barely hear them as I stride towards the ring. He’s already there, getting his shoulders rubbed by his trainer.
  120. I enter the ring and put my gloves on. Looking at him, I slam them together. Leo gets my mouth guard, and I open my mouth so he can put it in. The referee calls us to the center of the ring. He makes a big show of rolling his shoulders and even turns to the crowd to hold his glove to his ear like he can’t hear them. I stomp to the center where the ref and I wait for him to finish his little show. We tap gloves, and we separate.
  121. Bouncing up and down a little before they ring the bell, I hear Leo behind me, “You got this, mija.”
  122. The bell rings, and I shoot forward. He tries to throw a cross, but I dodge it and sucker punch him. The crowd roars. He looks angry, and I can’t tell if it’s because I landed a hit before he did or because the crowd liked that.
  123. He comes back towards me, trying a combination this time. I block most of them, but one lands right on my cheek, knocking my head back. He takes advantage of this and goes for a low blow. I get the air knocked out of me, but the ref saw the foul move. He steps in so I can get my air back, and I see he’s warning him about throwing another punch like that.
  124. I catch my breath, and the fighting resumes. I throw a quick jab, followed by a left hook. Both of them land. He staggers backward, and I take advantage of this. I hit him with a combination, making him step back until he’s up against the ropes, and I lay it on him, throwing punch after punch. He’s doing all he can to block as much of my punches as he can. Eventually, he gets flustered and puts me in a hold. The ref comes in again to break us up, but just like that the first round is over.
  125. I go into my corner where Leo and Jesús wait. Jesús squirts water into my mouth while Leo wipes off my forehead with a towel. Usually, Leo prattles off, telling me a list of things I should do when I get back out there, but he’s quiet this time.
  126. The bell rings. He charges me like a bull, and I barely have time to put my gloves up to block his right hook. Then, out of nowhere, he throws an upper cut straight to my jaw. I feel my head knock back, and he comes at me again with a cross. I feel my eyebrow split open, and I hit the ground.
  127. Through the blood, I can see the ref hitting the ground, counting me down. There’s no way in hell I’m letting him reach 8. I push up from the ground, and the ref asks if I’m ok. I simply nod. He steps off to the side, and I move around the ring, making him make the first move. He comes in, and I throw a quick jab. It lands. I do this for the rest of the round.
  128. I go my corner where Leo has the med kit ready. He takes a look at my eyebrow, “This is a deep cut, mija. It’s bleeding a lot.”
  129. I spit out my mouth guard, “I’ll be fine. Patch it up.”
  130. He nods and gets to work on my eyebrow while Jesús puts the mouth guard back in my mouth.
  131. The bell rings to signal the next round. He’s slamming his gloves together and bouncing heavily around. I put my hands up, waiting for him to come to me. He charges, and I step to the side where he keeps going since he had so much momentum that he hits the ropes. I go towards him, and as soon as he turns around, I’m ready for him. As I throw an upper cut, he stares at me and his eyes widen as he finally remembers me. His eyes widen even more when he realizes how fucked he is. His hands are barely at his chest to block it, and my punch hits him straight in the jaw where I can hear the wonderful sound of his teeth snapping together. With my other hand, I throw a cross. And just like that, I knock him out.
  132. Leo rushes into the ring before the ref can even grab my glove to raise it up. He picks me up and spins me around. Jesús joins us, and I even see him crack a smile. Leo finally puts me down. The ref comes by my side, grabs my glove, and lifts it up. I smile so hard, and I feel la Bruja standing alongside with me, as the audience roars around us.
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