Kilroy started to correct him. Ali shook his finger no. "That's right," Ali said, putting his arm around the old man and hugging him. "Joe Louie came to see you."
"People think I'm sufferin'," says Muhammad Ali. He shakes his head. "People thought I was suffering when they wouldn't let me box during the Vietnam War too.... I want my health back, but...I ain't sufferin'."
What current set him down here, in the 48th year of his life? Could it be the same one that whipped him into the madness against Liston? That whispered to him to try the unthinkable against Foreman, to stand still on the ropes? The one that made him a survivor, the most dominant athlete of his time?
He looks around the old farmhouse. Then into the kitchen, where Lonnie is making two big bowls of salad. "What if I was still superhuman?" he says. "What if I had finished undefeated? What if I'd won my last two fights...if I didn't have this health problem? I'd still be talkin' like I used to.... Be tryin' to keep up with my image, still doin' all those interviews and commercials and speeches.... I'd probably have a miserable life.... I wouldn't be human."
Human. All the other transformations of his life had satisfied other people's needs. This one had fulfilled only his own.
Before the big fights these days, when he is introduced in the ring, I see all the pity and pain on people's faces when he gives that little wave, that glazed look across the audience, and makes that exit through the ring ropes that seems to last forever. I see all the people who wanted him to be a symbol of something wonderful and liberating for all of his life, for all of their lives.
Look once more, look harder, I want to nudge them and say.