I may not have another chance to explain myself, so I have to try now.
To start with, Nick was a vampire. I’ll explain that before I’m done, but trust me for now. Obviously I didn’t know that from the beginning. But Nick was a vampire, and that’s what this story is about.
That and the Club, anyway. You see, I met Nick in the same place I met most of the people I’ve called friends in Seattle: at the Emerald City Submission Grappling Club in the U District. A place that, kind of accidentally, became the most important place in my life.
Pete and Chris ran the club, meaning they collected dues, paid the rent, and led practice five nights a week. The term “submission grappling” was a catch-all for the branch of martial arts they trained and taught. Whether you preferred to call it Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, or Russian Sambo (and all these terms got used, varying with the mood of the day), it all came back to the same sport God and Jacob threw down with back in Genesis.
Under Pete and Chris, a couple dozen regulars, myself included, were the soul of the Club. We all came for our own good reasons. For me at first the reasons had been to work up a sweat and to learn to fight, so I didn’t have to be as afraid in this new, cold, grey city. After a few weeks, I was coming back to meet people, to make myself better, and to compete.
The city of Seattle emits a sort of isolation field, which envelops the people who move there and keeps them from getting close to each other. The popular term for the phenomenon is the “Seattle Freeze,” and it’s the reason Seattle is a city of lonely immigrants, staring into smartphones as they ride the buses between their jobs and apartments. 162 hours a week, I was one of those people too.
The Club was my oasis. It was my way of piercing the isolation field. Grappling simply had the most contact of any contact sport. It was impossible to keep your training partners at arm’s length. (That’s stiff-arming, and anyone but a beginner would throw you hard if you did it.) We learned to trust each other, because it’s impossible to practice throwing people on their backs, hyperextending each others’ elbows, and strangling each other, without a lot of trust.
The Club attracted good people. Bad ones didn’t last long. That was reassuring, because as wholesome as I found it, this was a martial art I was practicing. People could use it to protect themselves, but it was just as easy—maybe easier—for people with bad intent to use it to hurt those weaker than themselves. There’s nothing inherent in the martial arts that protects against evil people misusing it, no matter what the self-styled Miyagi’s at the for-profit dojos might claim. It was only ever the Club’s culture, and Pete and Chris’s vigilance, that made the club a good place.
But that wasn’t enough to keep it good, or pure. Now I don’t know if it would be better to have never existed.
The Club was a good place. It was a welcoming place. It let me in. Then it let Nick in.
Submitted by Corodon Fuller