Portrait of a Fighter
I parked up front and shouldered my laptop bag. It was cold, but not so cold I needed the coat I wore. As I reached the entrance, a vehicle pulled in and parked next to mine. I paused with my hand on the door handle and looked back to see who it might be. A Toyota pickup someone body-lifted three feet, twenty years ago, rolled to a stop and its owner stepped from the cab.
He wore a camouflage jacket, rugged work pants and boots. He wore his face clean-shaven and his hair short and flat. I knew him by reputation, Manual Salazar, or as they nicknamed him in the octagon Mani Scar.
I held the door open and stepped back to let him pass. He gave a short nod and crossed the foyer where he returned the favor and held the inside door for me. We both headed for the counter. I let my bag drop into a swivel seat and sat near the cash register with my back to the door. Mani removed his coat, revealing his signature tank top that bore an American flag and accentuated his bulky chest and arms. As he sat in the seat on the end, by the restrooms, I noted the tribal tattoos that began at his elbow and patterned nearly to his neck over his left shoulder. The pattern parted around an earlier tattoo that read “I bleed for my country,” and a large scar from a bullet wound.
I knew from seeing one of Mani’s MMA fights, that the shoulder facing the bathrooms bore another tattoo reading simply ‘Army Ranger.’ Outside the octagon, Mani had fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.
I could stare at him no longer without being weird so I took in the next patron, already seated at a booth in what had once been the smoking section.