Wrestling with Tomatoes

The Coliseum was a 1980’s stone monstrosity,
Awkwardly shaped, obstructed views, uncomfortable steel folding chairs.
And in a world not yet cognizant of the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Nicotine clouds crowd out the barely breathable air inside.

Nestled firmly between my uncle and my dad,
I hold my breath– not to avoid cancer–but in anticipation.
My tiny hand with a tight death grip on my prized possession:
A ringside ticket!

Mesmerized by the bright lights,
And the frenetic fans in Hulk-a-mania t-shirts,
My sneakers stick to god-knows what accumulated glue-like substances.
As the usher leads us blindly to our seats.

My eyes dart from folding chair to folding chair.
Searching manically each tiny metal placards looking for a match.
Finally, I win the lottery…our numbers appear.
Row 4…Seats 6…7…8.

Although haughty sophisticates in the outside world shout “It’s FAKE!”
For 10-year old nerdy me—a child picked on brutally in school—it is an incredible escape,
To a world where good guys win, and bad guys get beat up,
And I could live vicariously through my heroes.

With the clang of the bell, the elaborate aggressive dance between muscle-bound freaks begins:
The evil foreign adversary attacks America’s war-decorated military hero,
(from behind, of course)
Whipping the crowd into a xenophobic frenzy.

And now, everyone is on their feet—chanting in unison—
My ringside view suddenly obstructed by overweight sweaty men crowding the ringside area,
So as not to miss a minute of the action, I climb on my chair and stand on my tippy toes,
Delicately balanced with hands on my dad’s shoulders.

“JOHN!” my dad screams, upsetting the balancing act by pushing me to one side.
A tomato whizzes by my head.
The weapons of these fans are more than their shouts and screams–
But the produce they have brought to fight the war.

Unlike junior high where I am ruthlessly bullied by the bad guys, and
the welts on my arm show that the good guy is not winning,
In this arena, tomatoes are a valuable tool in the fight against evil.
Perhaps I needed some vegetables to fight off my school tormentors.

John H. Johnson is a writer and entrepreneur who lives in Northern Virginia. His poetry focuses on quirky everyday life events, and he is also the author of the book “Everydata: The Missing Information in the Little Data You Consume Every Day.”

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