Where was the growing affection that people felt for other aging warriors? The dreamer raged. The dreamer who never wanted people to understand him couldn't imagine why he was so misunderstood. "They're so fickle—do you see how quickly people change?" The dreamer was almost grateful; he needed more of it and more: Yes, a chance to prove them wrong again, to have a dream again, to sleep, to sleep, to sleep.
He stirred his outrage like a fine soup. "I was deprived of the accomplishment in the last fight with Duran," he said. "I feel a sense of deprivation." And inhaled its aroma. "Talk-show hosts making jokes about 'No más' in their monologues, kids saying 'No más' in the streets. My career is not a joke." But, of course, the dreamer didn't need his career at all. "I'll only be in this business another year. I want to be more than a great fighter. I want to be a great human being. My future isn't here." He stabbed a finger toward the ceiling of the hotel lobby. "My future is up there, sleeping."
Up there sleeping was Jarrel. One day not long ago, Ray filled a large bowl with strawberries and lathered it with two cans of whipped cream. Then he went to the bathroom, planning to return in a minute and share the strawberries with his son.
When he came back, the little boy's belly was big, his face smeared with cream. Three strawberries remained in the bowl. "I saved some for you, Daddy." said Jarrel, and Ray laughed and laughed and laughed.
These were the two things that gave him the most joy in life, his boxing and his children. The two makers of moments in which he didn't know what would happen next. Did he understand that, finally? That a man's hands didn't need to stay closed up when he took off the gloves...that it was time to stop squeezing life, to let go?
The day before the Hagler fight Ray was walking the streets of Las Vegas, looking off toward the mountains. "Where are you, Ray?" asked his companion. He was up there, winging, safe inside his old dream. "I can feel myself floating through the sky," he would say later, "floating toward a rainbow and a brilliant sun...and as long as I never look down toward the earth, I'll never be disappointed.... It's funny, I don't know why, but I feel the same as I do in the dreams I had that I was dying.... I have that same peaceful, euphoric, floating feeling.... But I'm not going toward the end of my life in this one.... I'm going toward the beginning of childhood, the very beginning...."
Why would a man have a similar feeling when he is dying as when he was just born? Ray shook his head, snapped the cellular telephone from the holder on his belt and dialed a number. No, he would never understand that at all.