Guys from the gym
By J.R. Kuwanski
Steve’s bulging frog-like eyes give him an unusual appearance. Combined with his receding hair line, high and protruding cheek bones, coupled with his thin tied back dreadlocks and 6’2 height, his appearance can at first be off-putting. Although as time passes his quirk, mild manner and honesty become endearing. His south-east London accent, with the quick staccato inflection of his Nigerian heritage, means he can be difficult to understand, speaking quickly and slightly under his breath. He tends to stand at a distance, and his eye contact is never held long without being interrupted by an abrupt glance away, and then back, during conversation. But he often ends his sentences with a rapid “you-understand”, indicating that despite his remissive posturing he does want you to listen.
After a London military school until the age of ten, his Dad moved him back to Nigeria. An unknown boy with a British accent amongst excitable, adolescent Nigerian boys was not an easy experience, nor was waking at five am every morning to fetch the water. He learnt to hunt and fish around the village, the boy from London, to supplement the food he was supposed to get from the school, for which his father had paid.
His African adolecence seems to have stayed with him, as his yellow-tinged bulbous eyes may be due to the yellow fever he contracted when he was young. “It attacks your liver, so does Malaria, but not like yellow fever. It really destroys your liver. You become the walking dead. You understand”.
His morning begins early, starting around five am at the road-works, finishing around four in the afternoon. On Fridays, after work, he comes to the gym, usually holds the pads, in which his timing is a little awkward, and returns home for a few hours rest before working the door at a club in London’s west end, until five am. “When I come in and don’t spar, now you know. It’s not ‘cos I don’t want to. You understand now.”
Despite working in the industry, he expresses a disconnect with the club-scene, often finding it a place for manipulation, on behalf of both genders. And when asked if it’s a good club, his response is “I don’t know, I don’t drink. I cant because of my liver.”
One also can’t help but to wonder what Steve’s experiences with women have been. “I always come to the gym unno. ‘Cos you can’t give it up for a woman, ‘cos they won’t care when they leave you.” In his late thirties, or possibly early forties, there’s been no mention of children, but when asked about his long working hours, his reply is “I need the money. The pay is so shit that you have to work the hours. You understand.”
When passing him from outside of the ring, you can notice a quick and nervous glance towards you. And once the buzzer sounds, ending the round, he often looks over and asks “how-was-that?” His senstivity is also shown by unusual remarks in between rounds, “I think a lot of the young guys in here are rude unno. Once they get out of the ring they dont talk to you, they just walk away.”