A new dawn had begun. My eyelids drooped; still weighty with sleep. My limbs felt like a ton of bricks. In two hours, I feared the worst, for today; I was to foray into the intensely chaotic but macho and powerful world of boxing. My first thought was thus – how will I fare? How wheelchair friendly will the building be? What if I have to be carried across the threshold newlywed-style?

Transferring with the woody boomerang-shaped transfer board was a breeze as my queen-size was precisely the equivalent height as the wheelchair. The Whill (i.e. the electric chair) was parked pretty close to the bed and a silent prayer was sent up to the heavens, extremely grateful that my upper body strength hadn’t gone to pot. The knuckles were used as a prop, lifting my butt-cheeks as I shifted side-to-side. The Wellington hospital physiotherapists had taught me well.

The goose down duvet played a dual role as a fluffy comfort and a warm blankie. Whizzing into my perfectly tailored bathroom; I made a beeline for the ivory sink to brush my pearly whites with the Arm & Hammer baking soda toothpaste. To enhance the whitening effect (a trick learned from my papa); I gargled with an itsy bitsy amount of hydrogen peroxide.

After brushing, I transferred to the L-shaped shower bench imported from Amazon US. Twenty-five minutes later, Kevwe, my awesome care-giver crept into the bathroom, standing directly behind me while I patted the droplets of water on my ebony skin with my Sea World towel.

“So, what ensemble are we parading around in today?” she said, smirking at my futile attempts to avoid looking in the mirror.

A tank top embroidered in white with the phrase “sweat like a pig to look like a fox”, a pair of black Lululemon yoga pants teamed with bright orange Sketchers completed the female boxer look I was going for. A two-egg white omelet and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice was my heart healthy brekkie. A transfer and a folding up of the manual wheelchair later, we were parked outside the lemon green First Bank building that housed Elitebox Fitness.

The minute, gravelly pebbles crunched under the teeny front wheels. Screech. Crush. Screech.

“Why can’t they tar these little in-roads?” I said to Kevwe with an exaggerated tone of exasperation.

“We live in the land of network”, she chuckled, “where nothing really works as well as it should”.

There was a slight step to the lobby of the lofty, stately high-rise which meant I had to pop a wheelie.

“Hopefully, the lift is working”, I said as I rolled into the foyer. The chrome elevator doors were straight ahead as the boxing gym was on the first floor.

“I cannot wait. I want to be dripping with sweat at the end of the 30 minute sesh”. “In the mood for an intense workout”.

Rehia came to meet me in the wide corridor. The pastel walls were a little bit grimy but that just added to the gym’s authenticity.

“What’s up girl?” greeting me with a strong high five. Our voices echoed. A wide grin was plastered on my face.

“How you doing, hottie with a body?” Rehia uttered in a rich baritone.

“Hmm, why you dey wash me na?” I said with skepticism, as I glided past the glass-plated double doors.

‘Just take a look at my tummy – sticking out like a roll of pounded yam”. “I nearly decorated myself like a Christmas tree to distract from the obvious pouch”.

Rey threw back his head and laughed. “Where do you get these metaphors from”? ”Christmas tree…ah, you slay me for real”, he said in between hearty chuckles.

Kevwe propped my flask and burgundy backpack by the north east pillar of the gym, directly opposite the cool graffiti of Muhammed Ali. The air smelled like manly sweat combined with a faint whiff of Issey Miyake.

“Are you ready to sweat it out?”

“You mean, am I ready to die a little in my soul, then yeah, let’s get it!”

Kevwe guffawed. “Girl, you crazy”.

“Let’s talk about the layout of this place though”. “Everything is so flat and even”. “I love it”.

Kevwe threw in her two cents. ‘The door has a wide berth and the ash-coloured linoleum provides a smooth driving surface”.

“Yeah, it could be Mario Kart up in here”, Kevwe uttered with assurance.
Rehia grinned. “Now you’re here, let’s get to work”.

Rolling with little effort to the center of the room, I parked in front of the full length mirrors as instructed by the coach. Peering straight ahead, the reflection of the Muhammed Ali graffiti made the space even more awesome. Elitebox was definitely going to my fitness oasis. It was easy to glide through unimpeded by fitness equipment. The linoleum floors were smooth. The doors were more than wide enough. As I laced the wraps carefully round my knuckles and hands, I had one thought – overall, I would give the boxing gym a five out of five in terms of accessibility.

Interrupting my thought process, Rehia uttered with conviction, “Let’s begin!”
Efena Otobo

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