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ADRIFT IN A SEA OF CHOICES
Gary Smith
October 21, 1985
Alexis Arguello once considered suicide as an escape from the contradictions and ambiguities that filled a rich life with betrayal and despair
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October 21, 1985

Adrift In A Sea Of Choices

Alexis Arguello once considered suicide as an escape from the contradictions and ambiguities that filled a rich life with betrayal and despair

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When Alexis Arguello was five or six, living in the poorest barrio in Managua, Nicaragua, his father stared down the black shaft of an abandoned well. It was as good a place as any to die.

Guillermo the shoemaker ached from the contradiction of his life. When he worked all day and evening to sell enough shoes for his wife and eight children to survive, he had no time for his friends and felt alone. When he stopped working to share homemade whiskey with his friends, his family went hungry and he lost all control of his life. No decision was clean—all choices carried complications that made him feel dirty. Where could a man find resolution?

The shoemaker mounted the edge of the well and said a silent farewell. This, at least, would be a definitive answer. And he dived.

A moment later, a groan came from the well. There was water inside—Alexis Arguello's father was alive.

Oh my God, cried the shoemaker's wife. Call the fire department before he dies!

The firemen rumbled down the un-paved street, tied a rope to a chair and lowered it into the well. Sit on the chair, they shouted down. We'll pull you up.

Guillermo hesitated. Should he go back to that world of ambiguity? He undid the rope, looped it around his neck and retied it. Here, he thought—here at last was something clean and final. I am ready, he hollered up. Pull!

When the body came to the surface, Guillermo's face was blue and his tongue hung a terrifying distance from his mouth. Then his chest heaved and he opened his eyes and groaned. Was nothing clean? Was there no such thing as resolution in this life?

Down a long concrete path between two tall shelves of aluminum bars walked a dark-skinned, hooded figure, a seeker of resolution named Alexis Arguello. The second-shift workers at Aavid Engineering looked up from their drill presses and forklifts to stare at the oddity of a Nicaraguan walking toward a boxing ring in a New Hampshire factory.

Arguello nodded to them curtly, for the change in him occurred when he approached the ring, as it always did. He slipped off his robe and began punching the air. Faint tracks of scar tissue pocked the hoods of his eyes, but the rest of his handsome face and body looked taut and young, revealing nothing of the recent beating he had been through.

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