Peace to reader A.J. Travis for suggesting Wright Thompson's ESPN story, "Shadow Boxing":
The old man opens the door and shuffles into a familiar room. The air smells of stale beer and discount brand cigarette smoke. The tables are taken by men with no names. They are all friends. They are all strangers. A different journey brought each of them here, to the pool hall on NW Second Avenue, but that doesn't matter anymore. Their journeys are over. Most don't share the details, not even their last names. Some don't remember the year, or how long they've been coming here. They have no past.
The old man walks clumsily to a table. He has a story. The act of telling it, of having people hear it, keeps him from disappearing forever. One night, he says, he fought Muhammad Ali. Almost won, he brags. Some believe him. Some don't. Most don't care. He's just another wacko wandering the streets with some tale about how his life could have been different.
They ignore him, pretending he's not even there. He's got to show them.
The old man gets up and throws punches into the air.
The people around him laugh.
He sits back down, invisible again.
[Photo Credit: Michael Brennan, Special to ESPN.com]