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I lean forward, farther and farther until I feel the desired burn in my leg and side. As I do, I think; it’s amazing the different sanctuaries people can have. My best friend loves her closet; the quiet, the dark, the way you can’t hear thunder during a storm.
I switch sides and lean forward again, the burn painful yet sweet.
Another friend loves an empty pool at night, the moonlight glinting off the water as it ripples, the way the water caresses her as she swims, the way she seems to disappear in the shadows.
I move, feeling that lovely burn in both legs now.
My mother loves the library, the peacefulness, the sound of turning pages, the knowledge that so many people put work and effort into the thousands of books, magazines, movies, and music surrounding her.
I stand and hear my name. Smiling, I turn to the boy about my age that wants me as his partner. A blonde girl glares at him for claiming me and chooses another girl to work with. It just makes him laugh.
I know my sanctuary is different in many ways, yet I can’t seem to imagine another.
We line up and receive short instruction. Then, we spread out in pairs so we have enough space. We shake hands, and stand ready.
I love the way the mirrors fog up on a cold day in winter.
Our cue manifests in the form of a powerful cry from the mouth of a man dressed in black.
I love the smiles of triumph when someone learns something new.
My partner and I circle each other, watching.
I love the way we look out for each other and cheer each other on.
Finally, I see an opening. I spring forward and execute a nice sidekick to his ribs. He blocks my follow-up jab, and I dodge his counter hook. A front snap kick is his next attack, and I block it. I see an opportunity for a takedown, but I know I can’t pull it off on him, and the moment passes.
I love the feeling of relief when something especially difficult is over.
Beside me, a little brunette girl manages to sweep a big raven-haired guy. He hits the mat loudly, and she is on him instantly. Across the room, two average-size men exchange blocks and strikes. Next to them, a tall brunette boy picks up a girl my size and carefully brings her down to the mat.
I love that there’s no such thing as an underdog.
My partner lands a few good punches and kicks, but so do I. He blocks a lot of punches and kicks, but so do I.
I love the cool feeling that passes over my skin when I step outside covered in sweat on a spring or autumn day.
I can feel the wall at my back. I try to move away, but he keeps me there with well-placed kicks. I can almost feel his eyes as they search for one hole in my defense.
I love the way size doesn’t matter.
Finally, I slip-up, and he sees it. He acts instantly and comes in quickly. He anticipates and blocks the knee I throw to his groin. Soon, he pins me to the wall. He presses against me, I can feel the heat, and I can barely move.
I love how there’s a way out of everything, if you’re creative enough to find it.
I do not have a chance to act on an opening I know is there. He catches me off guard by whispering in my ear, “I love you.”
Yeah, I think I love that, too.
With one swift, efficient motion, he flips me through the air. I hit the mat hard, breaking the fall by slapping the mat with my palms. In ten seconds flat, my boyfriend chokes me until I tap out, laughing.
Welcome to my sanctuary.
Welcome to the dojo.