It was two years ago, my second year of high school – first year really, most of the ninth grade classes were in the same wing of the school building as the middle school, we even used the middle school gym and cafeteria – there was a flyer on the bulletin board in the cafeteria line, big one, bright colors on a black background – had a large picture of an mustachioed actor thrusting a rapier at the camera. I heard someone behind me ask who that was, and I said that was Errol Flynn, in “Robin Hood.” thought everyone knew that. So I looked at the flyer, saw it was a notice of the fencing club, and I was stunned. Fencing? Here, at this school? You’re joking, right?
You see, I had always been fascinated by fencing. Robin Hood was my earliest memory — Robin and the Sheriff dueling in the castle, their elongated shadows dancing behind them — then there was Zorro, Three Musketeers, Cyrano — these were my superheroes, because while they were all legends they could all be real. But, of course, only real in a world far different than the one my family and I lived in.
But now — a fencing team in my school? Was this real? I went to my first practice fully expecting to be disappointed. I remember not talking to anyone, hanging out by myself in the remotest part of the gym, not wanting to be recognized, because this didn’t seem real, I didn’t want to be disappointed. Coach Dan finally saw me, invited me to suit up, and at first I said no but he wouldn’t let me walk away without at least trying. The first time I lifted a foil, nothing felt so right to me.